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 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

FINDING MY TRIBE

People of a War-time Lifestyle

FINDING MY TRIBE

I remember the moment, nearly 50 years ago, as if it were this morning.  I was a little boy who dreamed about everything; and, who spent my days playing soldier, cowboy, Indian Chief, and any other role that was big. But on that Sunday morning I was seated in the basement of our small Assemblies of God church waiting for “Children’s Church” to begin. Looking back I now realize that my Children’s Church experience was probably like most any other gathering for children in 1960’s America. We sang songs, memorized Bible verses, and then were given a Bible story from a volunteer teacher. But on that Sunday, as a young boy and Jesus follower, I learned a song that changed my life forever:

            I have decided to follow Jesus (3x)

            No turning back, No turning back

 

            Though none go with me, still I will follow (3x)

            No turning back, No turning back

 

            The cross before me, the world behind me (3x)

            No turning back, No turning back.

 

Though I was too young to understand the ramifications of my decision I made a commitment that day to do just that—to follow Jesus.  It was the beginning point of living for something so big that only God could make it possible. To follow Jesus and nothing else. To go alone if necessary, and to choose the cross and not the culture around me.

By the time I was a teenager I was devouring as many Christian Leaders/Missionary biographies as I could find: Samuel Morris, Hudson Taylor, C.T. Studd, William Carey, and many, many more. I was drawn to the beauty found in complete sacrifice and the contentment these “heroes” discovered in giving up everything for God. I made a life commitment to live sacrificially and to spend myself at every turn for God’s glory.

To my surprise, the life commitment to “lose my life in order to find it” (Matthew 16:24-25) had unexpected consequences.  While in college I learned that my commitment was often viewed by others as odd or extreme. For a while, I struggled with the reality that I didn’t fit in and thought about shifting my focus toward the American dream. Soon after, however, I heard someone quote St. Francis of Xavier’s call to “give up your small ambitions” and decided that I would only ever find complete satisfaction if my life was spent for God.

Almost a decade later,  I opened the book, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, and read an article that helped me to understand my “fit.” It was Ralph Winter’s article on living a war-time lifestyle (https://joshuaproject.net/assets/media/articles/a-wartime-lifestyle.pdf), in which he called Jesus’ followers to “wartime” lifestyle priorities. Just as a peacetime luxury liner that normally accommodated 3,000 passengers became a WWII troop carrier transporting 15,000 troops, Winter proposed that Great-Commission-minded Christians who remained in their home country adopt an intentional and simple lifestyle similar to that of missionaries, for the focusing of resources toward completing the Great Commission. I devoured the article, read it again, shared it with my wife, began talking about it at seminary and, eventually committed to find and join a “Jesus-tribe” completely given over to doing everything possible to see Jesus worshipped among every tongue, tribe and nation. I knew that the only way to follow Jesus and never turn back was to live a “war-time lifestyle.”

Fast forward almost 30 years; those early choices my wife, and then our children, made to live simple, sacrificial and strategically focused lives have now placed us in an unlikely “tribe” of like-minded Jesus followers. The journey started with easy choices: living below our means; focusing on increasing our standard of giving, rather than growing our standard of living; choosing to be intentional with our generosity; learning to partner with others for a greater good; and, enjoying the rewards of a life filled with kingdom risks. Soon those early choices we made, made us. Now we are compelled by a passion to bring the Good News to those who have never heard…and to do it with a Jesus-tribe of people having the same commitment.

Make no mistake; the choice to live a war-time lifestyle continues to be counter-intuitive among many Great-Commission focused Christians and is often misunderstood by others. Each of us, in our own way, have given up the privilege of what is “rightfully ours” to experience the greater pleasure of God’s presence in serving the Unreached.

Along the way on this war-time lifestyle journey for Jesus we have met all kinds of people who have joined our “tribe:” outcasts, the persecuted, forgotten and the under-qualified. We’ve connected with former terrorists who now live solely for the glory of Jesus’ name; with bankers, businessmen, and entrepreneurs who use their acumen to fuel the kingdom; with cooks, camel herders, dishwashers, and servants who work together to rescue people from slavery. Some of us have lost loved ones to martyrdom; others of us have suffered and been persecuted for our faith. Some have given up well-known careers, or positions of prominence, while others have chosen to live in the shadows and remain completely unknown.  Together we pool our prayers, our resources, and our strengths and run into the chaos. We continue to ask the Lord how much we can risk for Him. To our joy, those we have mentored and fathered are now raising up their own like-minded spiritual sons and daughters.  More and more families are joining this small Jesus-tribe. 

Each year we ask how many more Unengaged, Unreached Peoples we can love, care for and launch church planting movements among. Our commitment to a war-time lifestyle enables us to live for the King and for the day in which His name is exalted above every other name and worshipped among every tongue, tribe and nation.

We can’t possibly know what difference our lives will ultimately make for eternity. But we do know this: our choice to live a war-time lifestyle has freed us to live for Him.

This is an article from the January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

24:14, The Best Hope for Reaching All Peoples. Are You In?

24:14, The Best Hope for Reaching All Peoples. Are You In?

In 1974 at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, Dr. Ralph Winter pointed out the uncomfortable reality that we would never complete world evangelization at the rate the global church was going because the Church was sending the vast majority of its mission resources to the areas and peoples of the world where there was already an existing church, i.e. they were reached. Thanks to the efforts of Ralph Winter and many others, the missions picture today is more hopeful than it was 44 years ago. Thousands of unreached peoples have been engaged with new mission efforts for the very first time. There is much to be thankful for. But as Justin Long points out in his article, “The Brutal Facts” starting on page 14, we are facing a similarly uncomfortable reality in our day as we did in 1974—missions and church planting as usual will not get us to the goal of reaching all peoples and providing access to every person.

First, like 44 years ago, the vast majority of our mission efforts are still focused on the reached areas of the world. Certainly, we have made progress, but still only 3 percent of cross-cultural missionaries serve among the unreached. Remarkably, one of the top receiving countries for mission outreach is the United States. The sad reality is that the vast majority of funds collected by the Church stays within the Church to bless the people of the church. Only a tiny fraction of Church funds and personnel go to those peoples with the least access to the gospel.

Secondly, according to Steve Smith and Stan Parks, in most cases where we have sent out missionaries to engage unreached peoples, our efforts have not kept up with population growth. In order to provide access to the gospel to every person within each people, we need to make disciples and plant churches that multiply faster than the overall growth in population.  Unfortunately, the most commonly used methods of church planting are not able to keep up with the growing population within unreached peoples.

We Need a New Paradigm—Multiplying Movements

 If our current efforts are not adequate to reach all peoples in our lifetimes, then what can we do to turn things around? God has not left us without recourse and that is what this issue of MF is all about. It is all about HOPE. The hope that we can make great progress in brining the gospel to every person, tribe and tongue because God is already doing so in hundreds of places around the world. In over 600 areas and peoples, disciples are making disciples and churches are planting churches faster than the growth in population. Starting on page 17 you can read story after story of Disciple-Making and Church-Planting Movements that are transforming whole peoples and regions.  It is a return to the simple, biblical and reproducible methods of ministry modeled by the early apostles in the book of Acts as they made disciples and planted churches throughout the Roman Empire.

Yes, it is possible to grow God’s kingdom faster than the growth in population and to expand God’s kingdom to every people group on earth. The news gets even better. Not only can disciples and churches multiply rapidly, so also can movements. The stories starting on page 32 demonstrate the power of these movements to spawn new movements in a viral expansion of the gospel. The leaders raised up in one movement can train leaders to start movements in peoples both near and far.

We have re-discovered the powerful, book of Acts like methods of discipleship and church planting that have proven effective in fostering movements in unreached peoples all over the world. Now it’s time to take this understanding of how to grow God’s kingdom to all peoples. 

24:14, Taking Movements to Every People by 2025

For years now we have been telling you about the various efforts to launch Church-Planting Movements. Last year we told you about The Zume Project. The year before we featured the “No Place Left” coalition. All of these efforts represent different streams among those people who are committed to fostering CPMs/DMMs in every people. Now these leaders who have catalyzed over 600 Church-Planting Movements worldwide are coming together under the umbrella of 24:14.  This new coalition does not replace what each group is already doing. It simply adds the strengths of each organization to every other one who share the common commitments and goals of the 24:14 coalition.

 The goal of 24:14 is to foster movements of discipleship and church planting in every unreached people group by 2025.  If successful, 24:14 could be the fulfillment of Ralph Winter’s vision expressed almost 44 years ago—to see every people experience a movement of discipleship and church planting where no people group is forgotten or “hidden” from the good news of the gospel.

Will 24:14 Succeed?

With the global Church being still so far from our desired goal of providing access to the gospel to every people regardless of its language, culture or location, can 24:14 succeed in accomplishing its very ambitious goals by 2025— just eight years from now?

Obviously, there are no guarantees, but there are many things that bode well for the success of 24:14 (See the article, “Why Is This Plan Different?” starting on page 38.) Because of the book of Acts-like power of the hundreds of movements that 24:14 practitioners are fostering worldwide, I believe 24:14 has the potential to accomplish its biblical goals of reaching all peoples with surprising speed and effectiveness. But they will need all the help they can get for this to happen. They cannot do it alone. See how you can help starting on page 13.

Are You In?

This is the key question each of us must answer for ourselves. Are the goals of the 24:14 coalition worth sacrificing our time, energy, money, even our health and safety in order to see them accomplished by 2025?  Each of us is given a limited amount of time here on earth to do God’s will and fulfill His purposes.  24:14 may be the last best hope any of us will have to fulfill God’s plan for all of history, that Jesus would be worshipped and given the glory He deserves from all peoples.

The goals of 24:14 are the same goals that the frontier mission movement were founded upon—reaching all peoples and doing so through movements.  We finally have an effective vehicle to help carry us forward toward these goals. If these goals are yours, then I ask you, “Are You In?”

Become a Mission Frontiers Vision Caster

Mission Frontiers is not just a magazine, but also a ministry to cast vision for what is possible in world evangelization. As such, we need the support and prayers of those who want to join us in this vision casting. We want you to be an active participant in this ministry. Here are some ways you can be involved.

Pray: We are in a spiritual battle to mobilize the global church to reach the unreached peoples and we need people to stand with us in prayer. Contact me at [email protected] for more on how to pray.

Donate: In order to move forward we need people to stand with us financially. We would like to have each issue of MF translated into the top 10 languages of the world, but we simply do not have the resources to do this. We need your help! We have some generous people who give monthly. One gives $200 a month. Just last month we received a gift for $1,000. We need your gifts, both large and small—whatever the Lord puts on your heart to give. 

Share: We want the information and vision contained in MF to be spread far and wide, but we need your help to do it. Download the pdf version of any article or issue of MF and share them with your friends. Visit http://www.missionfrontiers.org Print. off as many copies of these pdfs as you like. We give free permission for people to reprint material from MF as long as they let people know it came from us. One mission agency contacted us recently and asked permission to reprint 20 MF articles to train new missionaries. Wonderful! Order extra copies for conferences or your missions committee for just the cost of shipping. Supplies are limited but we will send what we have. Join us as we cast vision through Mission Frontiers.

 

 

This is an article from the January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

MOVEMENTS IN THE BIBLE

MOVEMENTS IN THE BIBLE

Movement. In the world of missions, the word evokes strong reactions. Is it, as advocates would say, the future of the Great Commission or is it simply a faddish, pragmatic pipe dream among certain crowds of church planters? The most important question is, “Are movements biblical?”

Luke’s account of the remarkable spread of the gospel in the book of Acts sets the standard for what we mean by “movement.” In Acts, Luke records the spread of the gospel from “Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”1 When those cut to the heart by Peter’s sermon at Pentecost were baptized, 3,000 were added to the faith in a single day (Acts 2:41). The church in Jerusalem grew as “… the Lord added day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). As Peter and John were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead,” “many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand” (Acts 4:2, 4). A short time later Luke recounts that “more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:14). Then, “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem” (Acts 6:7).

This growing and multiplying continued as the gospel spread beyond Jerusalem: “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied” (Acts 9:31). When those scattered by the persecution of Stephen came to Antioch, they spoke to the Hellenists there, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Back in Judea, “… the word of God increased and multiplied” (Acts 12:24).

When the Holy Spirit and the church in Antioch set apart Paul and Barnabas for the “work,” they preached at Pisidian Antioch, the Gentiles gladly heard and believed, “And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region” (Acts 13:49). Later, on Paul’s second journey with Silas, they revisited the churches of Derbe and Lystra, “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily” (Acts 16:5). During Paul’s Ephesian ministry, he “reasoned daily” in the Hall of Tyrannus, “so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). As the gospel grew in Ephesus, “the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily” (Acts 19:20). Finally, upon Paul’s return to Jerusalem, the elders there inform Paul “how many tens of thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed…” (Acts 21:20 ISV).

When they heard about it, they praised God and told him, “You see, brother, how many tens of thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and all of them are zealous for the Law."

By the end of the missionary journeys, the body of believers had grown from 120 gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 1:15) to thousands spread throughout the northeastern Mediterranean basin. These believers assembled in churches that were multiplying in number and in faith (Acts 16:5) and were releasing their own missionary laborers to join Paul in his apostolic church-planting work (Acts 13:1-3; 16:1-3; 20:4). All of this took place in a matter of roughly 25 years.2

This is movement. Acts records the initial movement of the gospel, and the disciples and churches that resulted from it. What can we say about that movement? And what does it mean for our work today?

First, it was initiated (Acts 2:1-4), propelled (Acts 2:47; 4:8; 29-31; 7:55), validated (Acts 5:32; 8:14-16; 10:44-46), directed (Acts 8:29; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6-7; 20:22), and sustained (Acts 9:31; 13:52; 20:28) by the Holy Spirit of God. Writing about what the Lord had done over the course of his three missionary journeys, Paul would “not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience … by the power of the Spirit of God…” (Rom 15:19).

Second, it rode upon the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the conversion of sinners to God (Acts 2:14-36; 3:11-26; 4:5-12; 7:1-53; 8:5-8, 26-39; 10:34-43; 13:5; 13:16-42; 14:1; 14:6-7; 16:13, 32; 17:2-3, 10-11, 17; 18:4; 19:8-10). The gospel, carrying with it an innate power to bring salvation (Rom 1:16), “continued to increase and to prevail mightily” (Acts 19:20) and propelled the movement into new areas.

Third, it produced new churches in a succession of new places (Acts 14:21-22; 16:1, 40; 17:4, 12, 34; 18:8-11; 20:1, 17) across a significant geography (“Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum”) who were, to varying degrees, participants in God’s work as they became “obedient to the faith” (Rom 15:19).

Based upon this picture from the book of Acts, we offer a definition of biblical movement as follows: A dynamic advance of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit through multiple localities or peoples marked by prominent in-gathering of new believers, vibrant transforming faith, and multiplication of disciples, churches and leaders.

The picture we have traced here inspires the question: “Why not here and now?” Are there any compelling biblical reasons to believe that the elements of movements are no longer available to us or that movements like the one described in Acts cannot happen again today? We have the same Word and the same Spirit. We have the record of the movement in Acts and we can claim the promise: “whatever was written in former days was written for instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4).

Dare we hope that the kind of movement described in Acts might come to life again today? In fact it already is as we now see hundreds of movements around the world.

 

1  All scripture quotations from ESV; all italics in scripture quotations added.

2 Eckhard Schnabel, Early Christian Mission, 2 vols. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic), 2:1476-78.

This is an article from the January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

THE BRUTAL FACTS

THE BRUTAL FACTS

Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, he gave his disciples the task we refer to as the Great Commission: to “go into all the world,” making disciples of every people group. Ever since then, Christians have dreamed of the day when this task would be completed. Many of us connect it to Matthew 24:14, Jesus’ promise that the gospel “will be preached in the whole world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.” (NIV) Although we may debate the precise meanings of this passage, we tend to think the task will be “completed,” and completion is somehow tied to “the end.”

While we eagerly anticipate Christ’s return, we must face the fact: if the end of the task and the return of Jesus somehow correlate, his return is likely still far off. By many measures, the “end of the task” is getting further away from us!

How do we measure “the end of the task?" Two possibilities are tied to these scriptures: a measure of proclamation and a measure of discipleship.

As a measure of discipleship, we can consider both how much of the world claims to be Christian, and how much of the world could be considered an “active disciple.”

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) counts Christians of all kinds. They tell us that in 1900, 33% of the world was Christian; in 2000, 33% of the world was Christian. And by 2050, unless things change dramatically, the world will still be 33% Christian! A church that only grows at the same rate as the population is not bringing the gospel to the whole world as a witness to all the peoples.

What about “active disciples?” This measure is far more difficult, since we can't really know the “state of the heart.” But in The Future of the Global Church, Patrick Johnstone estimated “evangelicals” at about 6.9% of the world’s population in 2010. The IMB estimates evangelicals at 3% today. By any estimate, the number of evangelicals is growing more rapidly than most other segments of Christianity, but continues to be a small percentage of the world.

The number of believers isn't the only measure of completing the task, however. “Proclamation,” as noted above, is another. Some people will hear the gospel and not accept it. Three measures of proclamation are widely used: unevangelized, unreached and unengaged. (Mission Frontiers looked at these three measures in depth in the January-February 2007 issue).

Unevangelized is an attempt to measure who has no access to the gospel: who, realistically, will not have a chance to hear the Good News and respond to it in their lifetime. CSGC estimates 54% of the world was unevangelized in 1900 and 28% is unevangelized today. This is good news: the percentage of the world with no access to the gospel has dropped significantly. However, the bad news: in 1900, the total population of unevangelized people was 880 million. Today, due to population growth, that number has risen to 2.1 billion.

While the percentage of unevangelized people was cut nearly in half, the total number of people with no access has more than doubled. The remaining task has grown in size.

Unreached is slightly different: it measures which unevangelized groups do not have a local, indigenous church that can bring the gospel to the whole group without the aid of cross-cultural missionaries. Joshua Project lists around 7,000 unreached groups totaling 3.15 billion people which is 42% of the world.

Finally, unengaged groups are those lacking any engagement by a church planting team. Today, there are 1,510 such groups: the number has been declining since its introduction in 1999 by the IMB. This decline is a good sign, but it means that for “newly engaged” groups, the work is not finished, only newly begun! It is far easier to engage a group with a church planting team than to see lasting results.

The “brutal fact” is that, by any of these measures, none of our existing efforts will reach all the people in all of the groups any time soon. We see several key reasons for this.

First, most of our effort goes to places where the church is, rather than places where it is not. Most money given to Christian causes is spent on ourselves and even most mission money is spent in majority Christian areas. Only 3% of cross-cultural missionaries serve among the unreached.

Second, most Christians are out of touch with the non-Christian world: globally, 81% of all non-Christians do not personally know a believer.

Third, the churches we are sustaining exist largely in places with slow population growth. Global population is growing fastest in places where we are not.

Fourth, many churches often have inadequate emphasis on discipleship, obedience to Christ, and willingness to follow Him whole-heartedly. Low commitment yields little reproduction and runs the risk of declining or imploding.

Fifth, we have not adapted strategically to the reality of a global church. We continue using most of our resources to support distant-culture teams engaging unreached groups rather than prioritizing and adequately resourcing near-culture teams to reach neighboring unreached groups.

Despite our earnest desire to fulfill the Great Commission, unless we change how we “run the race,” we won't likely see the finish line any time soon. We can never close the gap on lostness incrementally. We need to face the brutal fact that missions and church planting as usual will not reach the goal.

 

We need movements where the number of new believers exceeds the annual growth rate of the population. We need churches multiplying churches and movements multiplying movements among the unreached. This is not a dream or mere theory. God is doing this in some places. There are over 600 CPMs (at least four separate streams of consistent 4+ generation of churches) that are spread throughout every continent. There are another 250+ emerging movements that are seeing 2nd and 3rd generation church multiplication.

We must pay attention to what God is doing and trade minimally fruitful strategies for highly fruitful ones.

This is an article from the January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

Movements Multiplying Movements

Movements Multiplying Movements

God has done “far more than we can ask or imagine” in starting more than 600 modern-day “Book of Acts” type movements, with most of them among UPGs. As these movements begin, we might expect them to focus all their energy on the tremendous needs among their own people. Instead, we are thrilled to find that many movements are now multiplying movements among other groups. As you read these four vignettes, rejoice with us and join us in praying and working to see an exponential multiplication of movements.

How the Babu CPM has Fostered Other Movements

by JV Mukul, excerpted from his upcoming book 

"JV Mukul", a native of north India, served as a pastor for 15 years before shifting to a holistic strategy aiming for a movement among an unreached people. Since the early 1990s he has played a catalytic role from its inception to the large and growing movement we see today. 

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. A great many religious leaders were born here. Gautama Buddha received his enlightenment and gave his first sermon in this area. Yoga and Jainism originated here as well.

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 the 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 of them! 150 million is a huge number of people! 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 other languages and areas in this order: Awa (1999), Cous (2002), Bengali (2004), Maga (2006), Punjabi, Sind, Hindi, English (in urban communities) and Haryan (2008), Angik (2008), Maithi (2010), and Rajasthan (2015).

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 Maiti 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+ Angu leaders in holistic (integrated) ministry. We plan to help start holistic ministry centers in three different Angu locations in the coming year and raise up more local Angu leaders. Our key partner working among the Maithi is also extending work into the Angu area.

Movements Start Movements in South and Southeast Asia

By Kumar

Kumar was raised as a temple builder, the son of a non-Christian priest. After over a decade of planting traditional churches, he began using a reproducing model and God has worked through Kumar and many others to plant thousands of churches in the past ten years. For more information go to: http://noplaceleft.net/asiatrainer/.

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:

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.

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.

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.

SurrenderED: Movements Start Movements in the Middle East

By “Harold” and William J. Dubois

"Harold” was born into an Islamic family, raised and schooled to be a radical jihadist and Imam.  After his radical conversion to Jesus, Harold used his education, influence and leadership capacity to grow a movement of Jesus Followers. Now, 20+ years later, Harold helps to mentor and lead a network of house church movements among unreached peoples. Email [email protected] for more information.

William J. Dubois, a pen-name, works in highly sensitive areas in which the gospel is spreading powerfully. He and his wife have spent the last 25+ years training new believers from the harvest to grow in their leadership capacity and multiply house churches among unreached people. Email [email protected] for more information.

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:

I am from a Yazidi family. For a long time the condition of my country has been bad because of war. But now it has become worse because of ISIS.

Last month they attacked our village. They killed many people and kidnapped me along with other girls. Many of them raped me, treated me like an animal and beat me when I didn’t obey their orders. I begged them, “Please don’t do this to me,” but they smiled and said, “You are our slave.” They killed and tortured many people in front of me.

One day they took me to another place to sell me. My hands were tied and I was yelling and crying as we walked away from the men who sold me. After 30 minutes, the buyers said, “Dear Sister, God sent us to rescue Yazidi girls from these bad people.” Then I saw there were 18 girls they had purchased.

When we arrived in the Community of Hope camp we understood that God sent His people to save us. We learned that the wives of these men gave up their gold jewelry and paid for us to be free. Now we are safe, learning about God and have a good life.

(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 January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

THE STORY OF MOVEMENTS AND THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL

THE STORY OF MOVEMENTS AND THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL

Luke begins the book of Acts by telling us that what Jesus began to do and teach, he now continues to do through his disciples empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Luke’s story of the early church is the story of the dynamic Word of the gospel that grows, spreads, and multiplies resulting in new disciples and new churches. We get to the end of Acts and yet the story doesn’t end. Paul is under house arrest awaiting trial; meanwhile the unstoppable Word continues to spread throughout the world. Luke’s meaning is clear: the story continues through his readers who have the Word, the Spirit and the mandate to make disciples and plant churches.

Throughout church history we see this pattern continue: the Word going out through ordinary people, disciples and churches multiplying. While the Roman Empire was collapsing, God was calling a young man named Patrick. He lived in Roman Britain but was kidnapped and sold into slavery by Irish raiders. Alone and desperate he cried out to God who rescued him. He went on to form the Celtic missionary movement that was responsible for evangelizing and planting approximately 700 churches throughout Ireland first and then much of Europe over the next several centuries.

Two hundred years after the Reformation, Protestants still had no plan or strategy to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. That was until God used a young Austrian nobleman to transform a bickering band of religious refugees. In 1722 Count Nikolaus Zinzendorf opened his estate to persecuted religious dissenters. Through his Christ-like leadership and the power of the Holy Spirit, they were transformed into the first Protestant missionary movement, known as the Moravians.

Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann were the first missionaries sent out by the Moravians. They became the founders of the Christian movement among the slaves of the West Indies. For the next 50 years the Moravians worked alone, before any other Christian missionary arrived. By then the Moravians had baptized 13,000 converts and planted churches on the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, and St. Kitts.

Within twenty years Moravian missionaries were in the Arctic among the Inuit, in southern Africa, among the Native Americans of North America, and in Suriname, Ceylon, China, India, and Persia. In the next 150 years, over 2,000 Moravians volunteered to serve overseas. They went to the most remote, unfavorable, and neglected areas. This was something new in the expansion of Christianity: an entire Christian community—families as well as singles—devoted to world missions.

When the American War of Independence broke out in 1776, most English Methodist ministers returned home. They left behind six hundred members and a young English missionary named Francis Asbury who was a disciple of John Wesley.

Asbury had left school before he turned twelve to become a blacksmith’s apprentice. His grasp of Wesley’s example, methods and teaching enabled him to adapt them to a new mission field while remaining true to the principles.

Methodism not only survived the Revolutionary War, it swept the land. Methodism under Asbury outstripped the strongest and most established denominations. In 1775 Methodists were only 2.5% of total church membership in America. By 1850 their share had risen to 34%. This was at a time when Methodist requirements for membership were far stricter than the other denominations.

 

Methodism was a movement. They believed the gospel was a dynamic force out in the world bringing salvation. They believed that God was powerfully and personally present in the life of every disciple, including African Americans and women, not just the clergy. They also believed it was their duty and priority to reach lost people and to plant churches across the nation.

American Methodism benefited greatly from the pioneering work of John Wesley and the English Methodists. Freed from the constraints of traditional English society, Asbury discovered that the Methodist movement was even more at home in a world of opportunity and freedom.

As the movement spread through the labors of young itinerants, Methodism maintained its cohesiveness through a well-defined system of community. Methodists remained connected with each other through a rhythm of class meetings, love feasts, quarterly meetings and camp meetings. By 1811 there were 400-500 camp meetings held annually, with a total attendance of over one million.

When Asbury died in 1816 there were 200,000 Methodists. By 1850 there were one million Methodists led by 4,000 itinerants and 8,000 local preachers. The only organization more extensive was the U.S. government.

Eventually Methodism lost its passion and settled down to enjoy its achievements. In the process it gave birth to the Holiness movement. William Seymour was a holiness preacher with a desperate desire to know the power of God. He was the son of former slaves, a janitor and blind in one eye. God chose this unlikely man to spark a movement that began in 1906 in a disused Methodist building on Azusa Street.

The emotionally charged meetings ran all day and into the night. The meetings had no central coordination, and Seymour rarely preached. He taught the people to cry out to God for sanctification, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and divine healing.

Immediately, missionaries fanned out from Azusa Street to the world. Within two years they had brought Pentecostalism to parts of Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Africa. They were poor, untrained, and unprepared. Many died on the field. Their sacrifices were rewarded; the Pentecostal/charismatic and related movements became the fastest growing and most globally diverse expression of worldwide Christianity.

At the current rate of growth, there will be one billion Pentecostals by 2025, most of them in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Pentecostalism is the fastest expanding movement—religious, cultural, or political—ever.

Jesus founded a missionary movement with a mandate to take the gospel and multiply disciples and churches everywhere. History is replete with examples of movements just like in the book of Acts; I have named only a few. Three essential elements are necessary for Jesus movements: his dynamic Word, the power of the Holy Spirit and disciples who obey what Jesus has commanded.

This is an article from the January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

WHAT DOES IT COST TO BEHOLD THE BEAUTY OF THE KING?

WHAT DOES IT COST TO BEHOLD THE BEAUTY OF THE KING?

The gospel of the kingdom being preached over the whole earth is the hope and plea of every believer and the high point of Matthew 24. In fact, Matthew 24 answers one of the critical questions that God’s people have been asking since the foundation of the earth: What does it cost to see God’s name be made “great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets?” (cf. Malachi 1:11). What will the generation that fulfills Matthew 24:14 have to endure in that last generation?

In truth, we are privileged to be the generation that can say that there is literally no time zone in which Jesus is not worshipped.  However, within each time zone, there are dark pockets where Jesus is not known and worshipped. This should not be so.

Although we love Matthew 24:14, we tend to avoid the rest of the chapter. This is because Jesus makes it clear there will be many calamities in the earth leading up to when God is finally glorified among all the peoples of the earth.

For example:

·       War on a global scale (v.6-7)

·       Famines and earthquakes (v.8)

·       Persecution and being put to death (v.9)

·       Hated by all nations (v.9)

·       Many will renounce their faith (v.10)

·       False prophets (v.11, 22-6)

·       Increase of wickedness (v.12)

·       Love of most grow cold (v.12)

·       Multiplied lawlessness (v.12)

Jesus makes it clear that this coming of the kingdom is not neat, easy, or tidy. However, in this same passage, He gives us at least five ways that believers are to have “true grit”  so we can stand firm until the end (v. 13).

Jesus tells us to be mobile and nimble. He points out that we must be able to flee at a moment’s notice (v. 16). This advancement of the kingdom will take us off guard. So, we must be ready for sudden opportunities and change our lives, priorities, and plans quickly. The current refugee crisis is one such opportunity. More Muslims have come to Christ in this century than in all previous centuries of Islam. Those who responded to the refugee crisis have seen many Muslims come to Christ. But many had to stop our regular work to respond to this opportunity born of upheaval. There will be other opportunities in the future, and we have to be ready to respond quickly to the move of God. In fact, it appears that these calamities might also create unprecedented opportunity for the establishment of Kingdom Movements, but only if the people of God are mobile and nimble.

Jesus tells us we will have to flee but we can ask Him for mercy in the midst of our difficulties (v. 20). We are to be people of persistent prayer. This is not the kind of prayer that takes a few minutes. Nor will this be the kind of prayer in which we beg God to act. This will be the sons and daughters of the King militantly battling alongside their Heavenly Father (cf. Ephesians 6) against foes who are not seen but whose deeds are felt. This is the kind of prayer that is both hard and full of joy.

Jesus tells us to keep watch (v. 42). This means being aware of the strategies that God is carrying out. We are warned to be aware of false prophets. How can we distinguish false prophets from real prophets? By knowing the heart of the King. He captures our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And, when He does this, we have the power to be bold, be brave, live differently, love the unlovely, love our enemies, and endure hardship. This 1 Corinthians 13 love is per Leon Morris, “…not a patient, resigned acquiescence, but an active, positive fortitude. It is the endurance of the soldier who, in the thick of the battle, is undismayed.”

Jesus tells us to be good trustworthy servants (v. 45), to give to those in need of food. The passage does not seem to be literally about food, but an analogy. Unlike natural famines, where we respond with food aid to the neediest, we often send workers who are supposed to relieve spiritual famine to places where there is an excess of spiritual resources. This analogy helps us to understand why we prioritize the neglected peoples of the earth. We have to be honest and ruthless with ourselves to see whether our Great Commission workers are truly working where the spiritual need is greatest.

Jesus tells us to not be attached to earthly things. He points out that we should not go back and get our things (v. 17-18). Living this way is different than how our neighbors live. We live not for our own fleshly desires of entertainment, wealth, and beauty (cf. Romans 8:5). Instead, we live for the beauty of the King. This means spending less time for our own pleasures, but instead working harder for the welfare of others, giving away our time and money, and living for an unseen glory.

To live for the beauty of the King will require sacrifice—extreme sacrifice, sacrifice that hurts. However, with the sacrifice, it says in Malachi 1:11, that in every place where His name is great among the nations, there is the fragrant incense of our pure offerings. No sacrifice is too great if it makes His Name greater among the nations.

This is an article from the January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

24:14, THE WAR THAT FINALLY ENDS

24:14, THE WAR THAT FINALLY ENDS

A renewed war has been quietly waged for the last 30+ years. At first, it began as a quiet insurgence by a few “freedom fighters” unwilling to see billions of people live and die with no access to the gospel. Radicals, not accepting that so many lived in bondage to the “ruler of this world,” laid down their lives to see Jesus set the prisoners free.

This insurgence has spread more rapidly and more broadly than the Arab Spring. It has enacted more lasting change than the fall of the Iron Curtain. Initial sparks have grown into a global firestorm. Millions of spiritual troops have arisen in this battle: to date, 49 million new disciples from within the harvest; prisoners of the devil in the past, steadfast proclaimers of Jesus today.

 

They advance the banner of Christ against demonic strongholds and despite human opposition.  Their chief “weapons” are the love of God and the gospel of Jesus. Their struggle is not against humans but against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph. 6:12). They lay down their lives for Jesus, while forgiving and blessing their persecutors. They thrill at the salvation of multitudes in unreached areas, yet during dry spells and frequent suffering, they rejoice that their own names are written in heaven (Lk. 10:20).

Most are not “professional” fighters; they work regular jobs but wage spiritual war day and night. Some take jobs that pay less to have more time to serve their King. Some volunteer for dangerous missions to rescue the lost. All have a heart to share freely with those who enter their kingdom communities. This groundswell overwhelms every major obstacle to the King of Kings, by the power of the cross. Laying down all to follow the call to finish what Jesus began spreads and fuels the mission (Rev. 12:11).

This is no return to the horrific Crusades of earthly battles waged falsely in the name of Jesus. This kingdom is invisible, as Jesus declared:

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (Jn. 18:36, ESV)

This is a battle for the souls of people. These soldiers have fought the restraints of institutional religion to obey the commands of Scripture. They have endured not only attacks by demonic powers, but also friendly fire from church leaders who have misunderstood their desire to live as authentic disciples of the King.

These soldiers have chosen to believe that disciples, churches, leaders and movements can multiply as movements of the Spirit, just as they did in the early church. They have chosen to believe that the commands of Christ still carry the same authority and Spirit-empowerment as 2000 years ago.

Church-Planting Movements (CPMs) are spreading again today just as they did in the book of Acts and at various times in history (see the Addison article). They are not a new phenomenon but an old one. They are a return to basic biblical discipleship that all disciples of Jesus can emulate as 1) followers of Jesus and 2) fishers for people (Mk. 1:17) (see the article by Snodgrass). On every continent, where it was once said, “A CPM can’t happen here,” movements are spreading (see articles by Garrison, Tasse, Walker, Yehezkiel, Marcelin, and Wood).

Biblical principles are being applied in practical, reproducible models in a variety of cultural contexts. God’s servants are winning the lost, making disciples, forming healthy churches and developing godly leaders, in ways that can multiply generation after generation and begin to radically transform their communities.

These movements are the only way we have found historically for the kingdom of God to grow faster than the population (see Long’s article). Without them, even good ministry efforts result in losing ground.

The tide of this renewed effort is surging forward with unstoppable force. This insurgence is no passing fad. With 20+ years of reproducing churches, the number of CPMs has multiplied from a mere handful in the 1990s to 609+ as of October 2017, with more being reported each month. Each movement’s advance has been won with great endurance and sacrifice.

This mission—to take the gospel of the kingdom to every unreached and under-reached people and place—comes with real casualties of persecution. This is a struggle to the end to see the name of Jesus prevail in every place, so He is worshipped by all peoples. This mission costs everything, and it is worth it! He is worth it.

After almost three decades of resurgence of movements in modern times, a global coalition has arisen, not by boardroom brainstorming, but by leaders within and alongside movements banding together to fulfill one overarching objective:

And this good news of the King’s reign will be heralded throughout the whole world as a testimony to all peoples, and then the end will come. (Mt. 24:14, author’s translation)

As God draws multitudes of new believers from every tongue, tribe, people and nation into His kingdom, we yearn: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rv. 22:20). We cry out:

Your kingdom come! (movements)

No place left! (fully reaching all)

Finishing what others have started! (honoring those before us)

Through prayer, we as a coalition felt God gave us a deadline to increase urgency: We aim to engage every unreached people and place with an effective kingdom movement (CPM) strategy by December 31, 2025.

We have subordinated organizational and denominational brands to greater kingdom collaboration to accomplish this mission. We call our open-membership, volunteer army by the verse that inspires us: 24:14.

We are not a Western-centric initiative. We are composed of 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 more (see diverse testimonies in this edition). We are a coalition of CPM practitioners not waiting for a plan from executive leadership (though many executives are on board). We are inspired by a call for a wartime mentality (see Dubois article on the web at http://www.missionfrontiers.org) to sacrifice alongside brothers and sisters, to see the gospel proclaimed throughout the world as a witness to all peoples.

 

Is this revolution any different than hundreds of other plans that have arisen over the centuries? Is this plan really able to finish the Great Commission? Dr. Keith Parks has spent a lifetime in cross-cultural mission service starting in 1948. He was a presenter at Lausanne 1974 and as IMB President initiated their engagement of UPGs in the early 1980’s. Dr. Bill O’Brien was co-chair of Singapore 1989 which birthed the AD2000 network. You can see in their article that they feel this 24:14 coalition is fundamentally different. It builds on previous faithful efforts (e.g. AD2000, Finishing the Task, etc.); this 24:14 vision could well be the culmination of these historical and current efforts by helping engagements fully reach their targets.

According to Dr. Parks, the biggest difference is that 24:14 came not at the impetus of mission executives but came from the grassroots of the movements themselves. 24:14 is a network of the world’s CPMs and CPM organizations collaborating with urgency, and calling the global church to join in similar efforts. That’s why it feels like the end may be in sight.

There will be a final generation. It will be characterized by the global spread of the kingdom, and will advance in the face of global opposition (see Ho and Arlund article). Our generation feels strangely like the one Jesus described in Matthew 24.

This edition of Mission Frontiers is a call to action.1

24:14 consists of movement leaders and people/organizations/churches across the world committed to three things:

1.     REACH the UNREACHED: In line with Matthew 24:14, bringing the gospel of the kingdom to every unreached people and place.

2.      THROUGH CPMs: Fully reaching them through biblical kingdom movements of multiplying disciples, churches, leaders and movements.

3.      WITH URGENCY BY 2025: Doing so with a wartime urgency by the end of 2025 in the power of the Spirit, no matter what it costs us.

We are in a war, though most believers seem to live as if in peace. As long as God’s people slumber, the enemy wreaks havoc in communities, churches, relationships and personal discipleship. Priorities, time and focus remain dissipated. No D-Day objective looms. No great mission prevails, so sacrifice remains minimal or non-existent. Yet were the whole church to wake up to a wartime mindset, the gates of hell would quake (Mt 16:18)!

The 49 million (and growing) grassroots troops who have come to faith in these CPMs are spreading the good news globally. As stories of God’s breakthroughs trickle into churches around the world, reinforcements arise to go out into the battlefields. The slumbering giant of the global church needs to wake up (see Wells and Mickan article). But this giant must not awaken with a peacetime mindset. This is no business model for comfortable church growth; this is war.

The most effective troops to start new movements are leaders from existing movements. As a global church we need to prioritize prayer, personnel and funds to support existing CPMs in sending out messengers to unengaged areas to start new CPMs. (See articles by V. John,  Larson, Kumar, Harold and Dubois.)

Of the 8,800+ unreached people groups and places, we estimate that about 2,500 of them are already effectively engaged with CPM strategies. That leaves 6,300 still needing purposeful CPM initiatives. But we need to look more closely than the macro-level of a major people group or city. A people group of one million must be subdivided into smaller districts in which movements must emerge. Globally, that may be as many as 130,000 geographical and ethnolinguistic segments of the world needing movements. As you read this, global researchers are compiling sensitive data from CPM practitioners to identify which population segments have movements and which still need them.

Which brings us to you. God is calling you to join this volunteer army. What could happen if the global church arose with a sacrificial eight-year push to engage every unreached place with a movement of God?

We invite you to be a part of the revolution. See 2414now.net to learn more, watch inspiring videos and find on-ramps to join this wartime effort (see “How to Get Involved”).

Are you unsure how to start multiplying disciples at home and abroad? If you are willing to pay the price in preparation and service, we can put you in contact with a CPM team near you. They can coach you to spread the kingdom in your locale or in a distant location.

The 24:14 army is lean and focused. Our organizing team is a skeleton crew that can use volunteers. The budget needs for 24:14 global initiatives and coordinating efforts is minimal compared with the immense task.2 Our prayer coordination is emerging but needs a fervent global prayer push. Country, zone and district 24:14 volunteer stewards are needed to help coordinate CPM efforts; vacancies abound.

2025 is not the end. It is just the beginning of the end. We need CPM teams in every one of these 130,000 segments sacrificially committed to the war effort of spreading God’s kingdom through movements. Once a team is in place (between now and 2025) the fight has just begun to evangelize the lost and multiply disciples and churches to see a kingdom transformation of those communities.

We can see an end to a 2,000 year spiritual war. The enemy’s defeat is in sight. “No place left for Jesus to be named” is on the horizon (Rm. 15:23).  God is asking us to pay the price and deeply sacrifice to be the generation that fulfills Matthew 24:14. Are you in?

How to Get Involved

Jesus didn’t intend his Great Commission for just a sub-group of his followers, but for everyone who knows him as their Savior. He calls every believer to play a role in finishing the task. Join us via the avenues below to get involved!

Pray

Prayer movements always coincide with Church-Planting Movements. Join the global 24:14 prayer movement:

·       Sign up to join the 24/7 canopy of prayer supporting the 24:14 vision and receive weekly prayer emails (contact [email protected]).

·       Sign up to learn more about how to partner in prayer with a specific DMM team who are seeking to reach UPGs in their location (contact [email protected]).

·       Set a 24:14 alarm on your phone for 12:14 pm each day, to remind you to pray for fulfillment of Matthew 24:14.

 

Give

Engaging every unreached people and place with a movement strategy by 2025 will require the Church to mobilize like never before. We need to provide financial resources for special initiatives, collaboration of movement catalysts, training leaders, and mobilizing national believers to cascade movements to new unreached areas. Go to http://www.2414now.net/give

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Go

Get trained to effectively start CPMs, whether across an ocean or in your backyard. 24:14 has a network of home hubs and field hubs to provide a pathway for reaching a UPG, starting in your local context. Contact [email protected] for more information on getting involved. To learn more about hubs, see this Mission Frontiers article: http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/four-stages-to-no-place-left-in-our-generation

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Serve

24:14 has a list of roles that must be filled in order to make the eight-year vision a reality. See below for some key roles that you may be able to help with:

·       Join a Geographic Stewardship Team:  Geographic Stewardship Team Members (GSTMs) will identify and/or train implementers who will seek to multiply disciples and simple churches within their focus People Group or geographic area. In order to engage every unreached people group, we need a huge number of volunteer GSTMs in many locations, to ensure the entire world is being covered. For more information, contact [email protected].

·       Become a Home or Field Hub Coordinator: Are you already implementing CPM principles at home or abroad? Turn your place of ministry into a training ground where others can come to learn and serve in your ministry before being launched into a new region. For more information, contact [email protected] or [email protected].

·       Provide Logistical/Administrative Support: Help provide logistical and administrative support for the GSTMs, implementers, and others involved in this effort. For more information, contact [email protected].

·       Become a 24:14 Advocate: Help us spread the word about 24:14 in your church, business, and other places of influence. You could mobilize resources, prayer, and funds for the cause. Contact [email protected].

·       Start a 24:14 Task Force: Are you passionate about an area not listed above? Start a task force consistent with the vision of 24:14 to accomplish a specific objective. (For example, mobilizing 100 missionaries from your state/region in the next 2 years.) If you would like to start a task force, please contact [email protected].

·       Not ready to volunteer, but want to stay in the loop? Fill out the form at https://www.2414now.net/contact-us

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1 To get a better context for this edition, we invite you to read "The Beginning of the End?" The Launch of 24:14, in the Sept-Oct 2017 edition. To understand our place in the Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 storyline, we invite you to read "The Storyline of History" in the Nov-Dec 2017 edition of MF.

2 Most 24:14 efforts are not supported by outside funds. Outside funding for CPM catalyzation, and support comes via individuals, churches and organizations. Yet there are some central funding needs. See www.2414now.net/give for more information on supporting 24:14 global efforts.

This is an article from the January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

A Race You Won’t Want to Miss

A Race You Won’t Want to Miss

In my twenties, I (Jeff) was an elite distance runner with Nike. In 1982, I traveled from Oregon to run the New York City Marathon. I had trained for months, running 100 miles a week and pushing my body to its limits. However, on the day before the marathon I got sick. I missed the race!

In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Paul used the imagery of running for the real race of reaching lost people with the gospel. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?” (1 Corinthians 9:24). At the end of his lifetime, Paul confidently declared, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7). Don’t we, as Jesus’ disciples, want to say the same thing? Friends, don’t miss this race!

Jesus fired the starting gun when he declared: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The early church picked up Jesus’ challenge and jumped in the race! The book of Acts traces the remarkable story of the gospel spreading from a small band of Jewish disciples in Jerusalem until it spread throughout the Roman Empire and became an international church. This is an amazing story of disciples making disciples, churches planting churches, and Spirit-empowered, prayer-infused, gospel-centered movements.

When we see what God is doing around the world today it feels like the book of Acts. In recent decades we have seen an unprecedented global harvest of disciples making disciples and churches planting churches as movements have multiplied throughout various regions. Yet much of the global church remains oblivious to this great work that God is doing in our own day.

In May 2017 I attended a gathering in Britain of 30 experienced mission leaders who for decades have been involved with Church-Planting Movements around the world. We gathered to explore the task of engaging every unreached people with a kingdom movement by the year 2025. This 24:14 initiative takes its name from Matthew 24:14, where Jesus defined the finish line for the real race: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” That’s the finish line Jesus Christ had in mind when he called us to the starting line in Matthew 28:18-20.

The gathering in Britain sparkled with vigorous discussion, fervent prayer and a unified confidence that God is doing something in the world today that demands our attention. Yet in the midst of stories of amazing movements around the world, researchers sobered us. Globally the kingdom is losing ground; gospel advance is not even keeping up with global population growth. If we are going to reach the finish line of Matthew 24:14, we clearly need to see a proliferation of rapidly spreading, book-of-Acts-like kingdom movements around the world.

During the gathering, one question began to loom large in my heart: How can we mobilize the local church for this great race that God has called us to? Many pioneering mission leaders and influential mission organizations are enthusiastically on board, but this calling is not just for a select few. We need pastors and churches around the world to lock arms with us. The local church is at the epicenter of God’s plan for our day. Missions started in the book of Acts with the local church, first in Jerusalem and then in Antioch. So it is biblical for the local church to be in the thick of the race, not missing the race.

The local church around the world has so many resources – human resources, financial resources, knowledge resources, technology resources and especially prayer resources. Isn’t Paul’s encouragement to generosity (2 Corinthians 8:12-15) also applicable to contributing toward completion of this great task given to every church and disciple?

Because I pastor in the United States, I especially thought about the church in my country. How can we encourage churches and pastors across the United States, as well as in other countries, to join what God is doing in these gospel movements around the world? As someone at the gathering asked, “How can we awaken the sleeping giant, the church?”

Conservative estimates portray over 300,000 Protestant churches in the United States today. This means every one of the 7,000 unreached peoples could have as many as 43 American churches helping reach them. These figures astound me! Some churches or groups of churches might engage one UPG with CPM strategies. Some of the 1,667 American megachurches might help engage several with movement strategies.  Add to this the Bible-believing churches in every other country, and we should wonder why the race is not yet finished.

The early church in the book of Acts was faithful in their generation. Will we be faithful in our generation? Will we be like Paul in 1 Corinthians, running the race to reach people for Jesus Christ, no matter what the cost? Will we each be able to say at the end of our lives, as Paul said: “I have finished the race”?

As a young man, I was privileged to run in some of the world’s great marathons. But that privilege does not compare with the high privilege of running the real race, to reach all the world’s peoples with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need every church and every disciple in this race. We need you. Don’t miss this race.

This is an article from the January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

WHY IS 24:14 DIFFERENT THAN PREVIOUS EFFORTS?

WHY IS 24:14 DIFFERENT THAN PREVIOUS EFFORTS?

In every age, there have been gifted and called cross-cultural missionaries who wanted to be a part of telling everyone in the whole world about Jesus. With the stoning of Stephen, followers of The Way began to run for their lives into Samaria and other parts. These nameless gospel-gossips shared the Good News in word and deed. In 1989 David Barrett indicated there had been 788 plans to evangelize the world from AD 33 to that present moment. Since then, many new plans have emerged. The question is appropriately raised: “Why is 24:14 any different?”

Institution v. Grassroots: Most of the previous plans have been more institutionally or denominationally focused. While these have had positive results in an increase in mission activity and numbers of people coming to Christ world-wide, there has not been a sharp focus on reaching all who are beyond the reach of the gospel. Nor have they focused on planting self-duplicating communities of faith.

24:14 is neither centered in an institution nor a denomination. It has not been theoretically developed by institutional leaders. It is driven by knowledgeable implementers who are actively involved in actual movements. It has a more practical and less theoretical quality. It is focused on the desired end result of engaging all of the Unreached People Groups—effectively reaching them.

Unrestrained Sending: One of 24:14’s strengths is that personnel are not limited to cross-cultural sending groups and very fewAfinancial resources are required. As new believers become partners with those who brought them the Good News, the number of witnesses multiplies.

Technological Developments provide another important advantage. The more obvious include transportation and communication. This results in faster translation of scripture, better distribution of training materials, and more frequent contact with team members and prospects. However, this plan recognizes that technology does not replace incarnation. Therefore, consistent face to face interaction is an integral part of initiating and developing this plan.

Better Assessment and Tracking: One result of technology has been a more accurate description of the unfinished task. Several important breakthroughs emerged at the first Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974. One of those was the concept of reaching “Hidden Peoples” by Ralph Winter of Fuller Seminary. In 1982 the term was changed to “Unreached People Groups.” The plans in the past were typically focused on nations and failed to take into consideration the multiplicity of languages and ethnic groups within many nations. 24:14 has the advantage of greatly increased information that is more reliable and more relevant. The task is defined much more specifically. Further, relevant information is being tracked not just about engagement, but about effective CPM engagement that can result in the multiplication of disciples necessary to see an unreached group truly reached. 

Biblically-centered: Another incalculable advantage is the biblically-based approach of 24:14. Some prior efforts focused on the “outsider” as the essential spiritual guide. Therefore, as more groups were started, the missionary felt greater pressure on his or her time, energy and resources. However, 24:14 movements focus on Luke 10 and similar passages as the framework for seeking “persons of peace” and winning their networks of relationships. By inductively learning from the Bible through the guidance of the Spirit and emphasizing “making disciples” and “teaching them to obey,” each new group adds more generations of disciple-makers. Instead of adding stress to the “outsider” this plan realizes the indigenous leaders are the key to making disciples among their own people.

Proven Best-Practice Models: Movements represented in the 24:14 coalition are seeing massive multiplication of disciples and churches. These culturally-adapted models are not limited by human resources. The Lord could use it to reach all UPGs. The key 24:14 players have significant experience in initiating this kind of work. They have been perceptive enough to analyze what has already happened. By doing this over two decades, they have identified elements that enable a movement to grow and symptoms of stagnated or dying movements. Too often in the past, when new methods or approaches were tried, no evaluation tools were available to suggest appropriate adjustments. Now they can constantly make needed adjustments. These might include leadership refreshing or interaction with other nearby groups or bringing in someone to provide needed expertise.

Unique Collaboration: In the big picture, 24:14 embraces two essential interdependent realities: unreached peoples and collaboration of most fruitful movements. We know the Good News is for all the ethnic peoples of the world. The implementers of 24:14 have come from a wide variety of those ethnic groups and have the advantage of freedom from Western cultural captivity.

Prayer: Probably every plan to evangelize the world has included prayer as an essential element. However, most of them had a prayer-support base limited to an organization or denomination. This plan starts instead with world-wide prayer participants. And as new disciples are added, these formerly unreached people add a whole new dimension to prayer as a vital part of this plan. These prayer elements may be the greatest advantage of 24:14.

 In 1985, we looked at a map of the world and realized our “bold” plans to reach the world did not include over half the world’s countries which were closed to traditional missionaries and included the vast majority of those unreached with the gospel. We joined with others to try to adjust mission approaches to change that reality.

We are thrilled to see what God has done in the intervening years and we join with our many brothers and sisters around the world in being a part of the 24:14 coalition to hasten the day when the gospel is proclaimed throughout the entire world to every people, tribe, language and nation.

This is an article from the January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

GOD IS WORKING

GOD IS WORKING

Normally, my international travel is to conferences and I usually don’t see any tourist sites. Recently, I was traveling internationally as a tourist with others, many of whom don’t travel much. It is fascinating to me to see how others view cultural differences. All of us have a foundational “culture” in which we live and work. Often, we don’t realize it. Even though going to “tourist” sites means you are watching tourists interact (and not the people who live there as much), it is instructive to see how people interact with different modes of transportation or try new foods, etc.

No matter where I am, I gain great encouragement to hear and see ways God is working, via fellow travelers or through those who minister in the countries long-term. Sitting in my home or office, I’m tempted to either be discouraged or to think that I know what is happening around the world. In my role, people expect me to! But, in fact, it would be arrogant for me to assume that I know even 1% of what He is doing anywhere — or even all that results from our own ministry!

In one major city on this recent trip, I explored more in depth with friends in ministry there for 20 years. I was again in awe of God and His way of working through people few people will ever know. I learned about one woman who did an amazing, life-long ministry with people in need with the Salvation Army. The country’s secular government recognized and honored her with a State funeral just a few years ago. Still others were just starting similar ministry with another established work there.

It is pretty obvious that God is working in ways and with peoples that we “know not of.” I write about this old idea for several reasons:

First: to encourage all of us in the midst of difficulties and ministry–especially ministry focused on those without clear gospel witness we can “see” and yet for which we long. Perhaps I am speaking to myself with this, since our leadership has recently experienced more challenges. We all have, as Paul described it, “pressures within and without.”

Second: God is sovereign (again, no surprise!). He is working and He is patient. We are not. Part of my impatience grows out of our founding vision here at Frontier Ventures: we long to see everyone “come to a knowledge of the truth” and have a relationship with God. But God works in His timing, and somehow—in the midst of his sovereignty—in response to our prayers. (James 4:2c)

Third: One way that God encourages us is by opening the curtain just a little on His work. Perhaps we should expect to see it more often and certainly we should pray that He will work to accomplish His plan—whether we see it or not.

When I got home from this trip, I had an illustration of this in my front yard. My grass was really long! Actually, only part of it was long. The variety of grass I planted years ago was a fairly short deep green, but doesn’t grow fast or spread out. It is also susceptible to invasive grass. But the grass I didn’t plant is fast growing and spreads out. It has taken over in certain places and it grows much faster in warm weather, even in the fall.

The grass I planted is an illustration of all what God has called us to do. It is amazing what He allows us to do—it looks pretty good to us. Yet He comes in and replaces some of it which grows faster. It looks different. It may not even be as pretty as what we had in mind, but He adds to it and does things far beyond all we could ask or even think.

I know a number of places God is working in the world where, even if you were there on the ground, you wouldn’t know what was happening (I wouldn’t either, if I didn’t know the workers involved). Breakthroughs among unreached peoples don’t normally get measured by church buildings or public recognition. But, quietly—globally—God is working!

Let’s ask him to work even more among the peoples where—as best we can tell—not much is visible. Do you have specific missionaries you are praying for every day? Do you have a specific people group (or two!) you are praying earnestly for? Why not share about your prayer focus at http://www.missionfrontiers.org under this article.

This is an article from the January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

GOD IS USING MOVEMENTS

TO REACH THE UNREACHED

GOD IS USING MOVEMENTS

Movements of God Among the Unreached in East Africa

By Aila Tasse

Aila Tasse is the founder and director of Lifeway Mission, and is part of the East Africa CPM Network.

Through Church-Planting Movements (Disciple-Making Movements) amazing things have occurred among unreached people groups in East Africa. Since 2005, we have seen 5,500 to 6,000 new churches planted, with an average church size of 20 to 35 people. Multiple streams have started, multiplying into additional CPMs. In Rwanda, the movement is at 11 generations of new churches. Kenya’s at nine generations. God is impacting 11 countries including Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda, and even Sudan despite the war.

I grew up in Northern Kenya on the edge of the desert. One day as I was praying, God gave me a vision. He showed me 14 of the 22 unreached people groups in Kenya, every one of them living in that desert.

I felt God was calling me but I didn't want to accept the call. I had gone through so much persecution from my family and community that I wanted to leave the area. At that time there were no Christians among the indigenous people. The churches there all consisted of people working for the government or NGOs.

In 1998, I began fulfilling God’s vision and over the next few years I started implementing CPM principles. I became serious about applying a simpler pattern of church which was much more reproducible. Two other key factors that helped me multiply churches were the ideas of helping people discover truth (instead of someone telling it to them) and obedience as a normal pattern of discipleship. The strategy of DMM focuses on Discovery Bible Studies (DBS), where lost people are introduced to the Scriptures and discover the truth for themselves and obey whatever God is speaking to them. This strategy doesn’t force them to convert but rather focuses on the Scriptures and what the Holy Spirit speaks to the person through them. The DBS leader helps them hear from God, who moves in powerful ways in them.

At this point we have engaged all of the 14 UPGs in the desert and gone beyond that. Now we’re talking about 300 unreached people groups per Joshua Project (joshuaproject.net). We’re working at it country by country in East Africa, praying and focusing on the least reached, the least engaged.

Jesus commanded us to make disciples (not converts) as we go, until no space remains untouched by a worldwide explosion of disciples. This won’t happen by planting and growing churches one at a time. It won’t happen by trying to build megachurches or by paying a few people to try to do it. We believe the only way for the Church to fulfill the Great Commission is through making disciples who make more disciples.

We see God using many people and groups, and we praise God for the network and collaboration of 24:14. We need to work together as the Body of Christ. We need to learn from others, as well as to share what we are learning.

 

God is Sweeping through South Asia

The Walkers and Phoebe

 

The “Walker” family began cross-cultural work in 2001. In 2006, they joined Beyond (http://www.beyond.org) and in 2011 started applying CPM principles. They were joined by “Phoebe” in 2013. Phoebe and the Walkers moved to different countries in 2016, and have been supporting the movements from a distance.

Before the Church Planting Movement (CPM) began in our area, our two national partners were full-time Christian workers in the nation's heartland. Both had a heart for God’s kingdom, but CPM was far outside their paradigm.

After attending a two-week CPM training, we became intentional in taking the next steps toward catalyzing a CPM, eliminating all non-essential ministry efforts. Our new approach included:

  • personal obedience (a shema witness for Christ and searching for people who would open their households to the gospel)
  • increased prayer
  • casting vision to existing believers to partner in this endeavor
  • training interested Christians
  • receiving coaching from those ahead of us.

In July 2012, one of our partners gathered 15 men from various districts. We began meeting for 1.5 to 2 day trainings, roughly once per month. Most were Christian-background believers, while a few were Hindu background believers. As many began applying CPM principles, they quickly saw fruit. Our national partner was the head coach and cheerleader for this group.

  • By December 2012, there were 55 outreach Discovery Bible Groups, all consisting of lost people.
  • By December 2013 there were 250 groups (churches and Discovery groups).
  • By December 2014 there were 700 churches, and an estimated 2,500 baptized.
  • By December 2015 there were 2,000 churches, and an estimated 9,000 baptized.
  • By December 2016 there were 6,500 churches, and an estimated 25,000 baptized.

Through this process, here are a few of the many lessons we learned:

  1. Matthew 10, Luke 9 and 10 offer an effective strategy for connecting to lost people.
  2. Miracles (healing and/or demonic deliverance) were a consistent component of people coming into the Kingdom.
  3. We simplified the Discovery Study process multiple times. We also transitioned our training style to using just the Word, rather than others’ tools and methods.
  4. We emphasized loving obedience to Jesus and everyone passing on the training. We found it better to go deep in empowering those who were applying CPM principles, than to focus on doing more trainings.
  5. As outsiders, our role was to point out when the work was following tradition rather than the Word. This could only be done with cultural sensitivity and growing trust, not as an attack.
  6. Focus on reaching households, not individuals.
  7. Use Discovery Bible Studies (DBS) for both pre-churches and churches.
  8. Rechargeable inexpensive speakers with story sets on memory cards were extremely helpful, empowering illiterate and semi-literate people to plant churches through listening to scripture. Roughly half of the churches have been planted through the use of these speakers.
  9. Leadership circles provided sustainable and reproducible mutual mentoring for leaders.
  10. Intercessory prayer was a critical part of the strategy, but so was listening (listening prayer) for God’s direction on strategy decisions.

The movement has consistently reached 4th generation in many places. In a few locations, it has reached the 18th generation. This is not just one movement, but multiple movements, in four+ geographical regions, multiple languages and multiple religious backgrounds.

Kingdom Movements among Muslims in Southeast Asia

By Yehezkiel

 

Yehezkiel serves as Mission Director for a Baptist Church in SE Asia. ([email protected])

Our ministry network focuses on starting movements in the Muslim heartlands of Southeast Asia. The essential cornerstone of our network’s church planting is the gospel itself. The gospel functions as our first filter when we interact with people. The first time we meet anyone we share the gospel at the beginning of our conversation: any place, any time, and anyone. Through presenting of the gospel, we begin the process of planting a congregation through this new local believer.

We consider the outside church planter (even if a national) to be generation 0. The local person (generation 1 or G1) who hears the gospel and responds by believing is baptized, discipled and immediately trained to reach his/her family, friends and acquaintances.  When the G1 believer shares the gospel with his/her contacts and they believe, new believers are immediately baptized, discipled and trained by the local believer. This group becomes a G1 house church with the local believer as its leader.

The believers gather routinely each week in the G1 house church to worship Jesus, celebrate the Lord’s Supper and study God’s Word together using a guide that we provide. Very quickly they take up responsibility for reaching their network of relationships. The G1 believers are discipled and trained to disciple and train others and establish house fellowships with the new people they reach.

The house church functions as a sending hub in which all participants are equipped to become church planters. Every week after the worship service each member of the fellowship goes out to reach, disciple and train others. Those who come to faith are immediately baptized, discipled and trained to reach their network of contacts and gather them into a house church.

This process continues with oversight, evaluation and constant training. In this way, we have been able to establish thousands of house fellowships. In the last several years, tens of thousands have come to faith and been baptized, up to 20 generations. Our ministry network has also reached out to other areas to assist workers in other islands and ethnic groups in Southeast Asia.

This process of multiplication is what we mean by a Church-Planting Movement. This approach requires long-term commitment, with ongoing evaluation and monitoring that do not endanger the church planting process itself.

The autonomy of the house churches is a high priority. Leaders are quickly equipped so they can take ownership of the ministry. We as Gen 0 leaders quickly give local leaders authority to perform all the functions of a church. They baptize, receive people into the fellowship, teach the Word of God, celebrate the Lord’s Supper and so on. We call this equipping process “Model, Assist, Watch and Empower.” This process begins as soon as people come to faith. Autonomy is planned for and applied from the beginning.

The believers in this movement not only understand the end goal but also effectively live out the lifestyle that accomplishes that goal. Our job is to ensure that this understanding and practice continues to be transferred to each new believer and house church, generation after generation.

 

Moving Toward No Place Left in Haiti

By Jephte Marcelin

 

Jephte Marcelin is a native of Haiti, laboring to see no place left where the gospel has not yet been made known. At age 22, Jephte turned down a bright future as a medical doctor to pursue God’s plan for his life as a movement catalyst. He can be reached at [email protected].

I am one of the servants in No Place Left Haiti. Our vision is to faithfully obey Jesus by making disciples who make disciples, planting churches that plant churches, and mobilizing missionaries to the nations until there’s no place left. We do this by entering empty fields, sharing the gospel with anyone who will listen, discipling those who respond, forming them into new churches, and raising up leaders from within them to repeat the process. This is happening in many different locations in Haiti. As these churches gather in homes, under trees, and everywhere, we are seeing new leaders and teams being raised up from the harvest. 

A great example of this is Joshua Jorge, one of our team leaders. He is laboring for no place left in Ganthier, an area located in Southeast Haiti. Recently, he sent out two of his “Timothys,” Wiskensley and Renaldo, to an area called Anse-à-Pitres. Following the example of Luke 10, they went with no extra provisions and searched for a house of peace. They arrived and immediately began sharing the gospel house-to-house, asking the Lord to lead them to God-prepared people. After a few hours, they met a man in the street named Calixte. As they shared with him about the hope found only in Jesus, he received the gospel and gave his life to Jesus.

Wiskensley and Renaldo asked Calixte where he lived and he led them to his home. They entered the house, shared Jesus with his entire family and they all chose to follow Jesus that day. These two ambassadors spent the next four days with this family, training them and taking them out into the harvest to share with their neighbors. During those four days, 73 people turned and believed in Jesus, 50 of them were baptized, and they formed a new church in Calixte’s home. Wiskensley and Renaldo continued to return to train a few emerging leaders in simple, biblical, reproducible tools. Within just a few weeks, this new church had already multiplied into two other churches! Praise Jesus! 

My people have been physically and spiritually oppressed for generations. Haitians tell people, “You cannot follow Jesus until your life is clean.” They say, “Do not read the Bible because you will not understand it.” Jesus says, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Now we are listening to Jesus. Haitians are finding freedom in the Gospel of Grace. As we follow Jesus’ kingdom strategy given to us in the Gospels and in the book of Acts, being faithful to obey all of His commands, the Lord of the harvest is doing a great work. We are truly experiencing a movement of the Spirit of God. Thousands of Haitians are accepting their identity as ambassadors for Christ and thousands of new Jesus gatherings are being formed. We are not seeking to build our own kingdom, but giving away God’s kingdom. And He is multiplying it!

We began implementing movement principles in February 2016. We are now tracking seven streams of 4th generation churches (and more) representing more than 3,000 new churches and 20,000 baptisms. 

 

Simple Things Grow and Simple Things Multiply

By Lee Wood

 

Lee Wood, a former orphan, an abused, addicted young man received Jesus at 23, and his life was totally transformed. His outrageous energy is contagious to all those around him. His heart’s passion is discipling others for Christ until the whole world knows.

In March 2013 I attended a Metacamp discipleship training facilitated by Curtis Sergeant. The focus was on obedience and training others how to make disciples who make disciples, leading to multiplication of simple house churches. I came to the training with a passion for discipleship and a healthy dissatisfaction with my status quo. I understood why we are called to make disciples – that the world might know – but was confused as to how. At the training, we learned the how and the importance of disciple-making as an expression of our love for God and others.

I left eager to apply the principles: tell your story, tell God's story, form groups and train them to do the same. Hitting the ground running, we started 63 groups in the first year and trained others to do the same. Some groups multiplied to the fourth generation. Hundreds of groups formed in the first two years, but with weak follow up, they were not sustaining or multiplying the way they should. We were so busy forming groups we failed to follow all the principles we had learned.

Thankfully Curtis didn't give up on us. He continued to coach us, emphasizing critically important principles: 

  • Take care of the depth of your ministry. God will take care of the breadth.
  • Pour deeply into the few who are obeying. 
  • Keep doing what you are doing and you will get better at it.
  • Simple things grow. Simple things multiply.
  • Obey and train others.

We went back to salvage what we could. We poured into those who were clearly obeying the call (not doing this was our most significant failure in our earlier efforts). We began to prayer walk intentionally in some of the worst places in Tampa, to find persons of peace – people prepared to receive Christ and pass on the good news to their relationships – among the least, the lost and the last. As we learned more, we began to train others locally and eventually globally. Healthy groups began multiplying. The movement expanded to other Florida cities and four other states. With the help of some of our earliest disciples it expanded to ten other countries. We began to send out missionaries to unreached, unengaged people groups within two years, from a completely organic decentralized movement. 

In partnership with another network, we have sent trainers to over 70 countries where self-multiplying movements of people reaching their own for Christ are beginning or are well under way. Additionally others began coming to our city for immersion training in an emerging urban church model, engaging in CPM that transforms communities.

All of this comes from sharing our personal stories of how Jesus has changed our lives, telling Jesus’ story (the gospel) and following a few simple principles: pouring deeply into the few, keeping it simple, learning by doing, and trusting God for the outcome. 

How? Love God, love others and make disciples that make disciples. Simple things grow and simple things multiply.

This is an article from the November-December 2017 issue: Movements Make All The Difference In The World

Next 40 Years

Next 40 Years Next 40 Years

1974

When Ralph D. Winter shared the vision for the unreached at Lausanne, most church and mission leaders around the world knew little about the concept. Information  from  around  the  world was hard to get. What Winter did learn compelled him, with Roberta, to start the U.S. Center for World Mission (now Frontier Ventures) in 1976. The original vision has not changed. Our bylaws state that we:

…serve the mission enterprise by identifying barriers and pursuing solutions toward Kingdom breakthrough to see the gospel of Jesus Christ unleashed and unhindered among the least reached, so that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” – Habakkuk 2:14.

My wife and I joined staff a bit later, about 35 years ago. Few were talking about taking the gospel to unreached people groups without any viable fellowships. Workers were going to every country of the world but not every people and the vast majority of the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist groups had no one reaching out to them at all.

We felt a clear call to mobilize a movement of people to pray and engage in this task. Our “audience” was mission sending agencies, churches and students.

Getting information about what was happening was hard and required relationships  and  people  “on-site” among the unreached. In many places, nothing was happening—but we needed to know that too. We (and others) started regional centers in the U.S. and networked a little with global centers for world mission to spread the vision—this was always central to how we worked out our vision.

But things changed

Amazingly, God allowed us to be “successful”  in  spreading  our  vision. We tried to learn all we could and pass that on to MF readers, William Carey Library, Perspectives, WCIU…. But now:

• The internet allows information to be shared easily.

• There are a number of other organizations dedicated to specific aspects of our original vision like student mobilization and of course, training. We don’t have to focus on that as much.

• The sending movements globally are growing, maturing and leading the way in many unreached areas.
• Yet there were a few things in our original hope and dreams that did not happen—at least not as much as we had planned.

• We did create a “collaborative mission center” and many things were birthed here (including the founding of the agency called Frontiers). But because most cutting-edge ministries were “out there” we never saw the full collaboration we had hoped for in Pasadena. Instead it was happening globally.

• We began to realize that more important than merely mobilizing new workers, we needed to give more energy to helping all workers know what they need to do once they get out there.

• So, collaboration and learning was happening  out  in  the  fields/regions  of the world. While we did see a lot of connecting of people into the ministries God was calling them to—and with more effectiveness—the on-the-ground missiology was being honed globally, not in Pasadena alone.

• Perhaps most exciting was that the global church was stepping up beyond what we could have imagined. Patrick Johnstone, author of Operation World at the time, noted that about 1987, more workers were sent from East than the West.

Now, I spend a great deal of time around the world away from Pasadena, doing what we used to do here: serving new movements (where we are asked) to help them mobilize, train and strategize. These folks will never come to Pasadena or the U.S.—and frankly, I hope they do not — we don’t want to ruin them with our models of church and mission that don’t fit their context or budgets.

So what do the next 40 years look like?

All of this is causing us to feel compelled again to strengthen and expand our ministries around the U.S. and the world. The Frontier Ventures Board has decided to expand our efforts and become more intentionally multi-site. While it will involve much of what we have been doing, we don’t fully know how it will change.

We invite your input—so feel free to post a comment on this article at: missionfrontiers.org

This is an article from the November-December 2017 issue: Movements Make All The Difference In The World

The Least of These

The Least of These

IN MATTHEW 25 JESUS IS ASKED WHO WILL get into the kingdom of Heaven and He answers, “When you saw me hungry you gave me food, and when you saw me naked you gave me clothes, and when you saw me in prison you came and visited me, and when I was sick you came to be with me.”  And they asked Him, “When did we see you hungry, or naked, or in prison, or sick?”  In verse 40 Jesus answers, “When you did this for the least of these of my brothers you did this to me.”

We often interpret this verse as meaning we need to have compassion for poor and hurting people.  And indeed that meaning is there. But the meaning is really much deeper than that.  Jesus is comparing Himself with the “least of these.” He says “you see them, you see me.” He's putting Himself on the same level with them. And we remember Jesus' words to His disciples that “those who believe will do my works and even greater works.”

Who will continue Jesus' works on this earth?  The “least of these.” Normal everyday people! Movements around the world today are being led by “no name, no fame” people. They will never write a book, or appear on a television show, but they are doing the works of Jesus and He is showing up in their midst bringing many to Himself.  Here are some stories of just these kinds of people with whom we live and serve.  The names and some details are missing or changed on purpose but the stories are true.

Street Kids

One day Jesus had children coming to Him but His “bodyguard” disciples told the kids not to bother the Teacher. Jesus scolded them saying, “Don’t forbid them to come because they too have a place in my Kingdom.” Sometimes we think these were white-robed clean-cut Jewish children. No. They are street kids. They haven’t bathed for a week and their robes are dirty and torn. And they have a place in the Kingdom!

On average, we have 20 children living with us. No, it’s not an orphanage; it’s a family. Some are abandoned; some abused; some just looking for a safe place to live. They all come with emotional scars. When they come, they are not yet believers. But very soon they start on a journey of becoming followers of Christ. But how do they come?

It starts through relationship with the children already living with us.  When one of them has a friend who has reached “rock bottom” and they want to have them come live with us, they call a “house meeting” where this is discussed.  They all have to agree, because they are the ones who will do the discipling of the new child. Then when that child arrives and comes through the door, one of the other children, who has only been a month with us, takes the new child’s hand and says, “Hey, you follow me, as I’m trying to follow Jesus.” A discipler has to only be one step ahead of the person being discipled.

Prostitutes

One day Jesus was passing through Samaria with His disciples and He stopped for a drink of water. There He met a woman drawing water from the public well at a strange time because she couldn’t associate with the other village women – that’s because she was a prostitute. Jesus opened up her heart and she ran back to her village and brought them to meet Jesus and Jesus stayed two more days there.  A prostitute brought a village to Jesus.

Sri got married at a young age and quickly had three children. Then her husband got sick and died.  She didn’t know how she was going to feed and care for these children, until someone told her that she could get a job in a faraway city at a new “restaurant.”  She received a “free” ticket on the ship.  But when she arrived and entered the location, she soon realized it wasn’t a restaurant but rather a “brothel.” But now she was indebted by the price of the ticket.

She was forced to serve customers with her body, and every month would send money back to her village so her mother could care for her children. This continued week after week, month after month, year after year.

Then one day at the brothel, during the “off hours,” she met a kind lady who often visited the girls working there, bringing them some extra food and some medicines. She even “prayed” with some of the girls.  Sri started listening to their conversations which centered around “hope found in a new self-image.” She’d lost all her self-worth because now she was just a piece of merchandise for the enjoyment of others. Every time this lady came by, Sri spent as much time with her as she could.

Then one day Sri gave her life to Jesus and truly found a new image of herself. She saved up money and received some help from others until finally she was able to “buy out” her contract. She was free at last and went to live with others like herself who were finding a new life in God.  She fell in love with a motorcycle taxi driver who also loved Jesus.  It was so much fun doing their “pre-marital” counseling because she kept asking totally honest questions and saying “Why hasn’t anyone ever told me this before?”

Then their wedding day approached.  We perform all weddings on Sundays in big gatherings with lots of Christ followers together to give support.  Sri asked me before the “big day” if she could invite a few people from the brothel to come to her wedding. I answered, “Of course.”  Little did I know she would invite the entire brothel! So on Sunday all the front rows of our “church service” were full of a hundred prostitutes and pimps!  And not only did they get to see a marriage made in heaven, they also got to hear the gospel story!

Criminals

One day Jesus was visiting the town of Jericho. In that town there was a man who was despised by everyone.
His name was Zacchaeus. He was the Mafia Boss of that city. He stole money from the local people as well as corrupted government officials. He had no friends. So when Jesus came to town, he wondered if Jesus might be someone who could accept him just the way he was. He’d heard rumors that Jesus was the “friend of sinners.”

So he gave it a try. He went to the road where Jesus was passing by, but it was totally packed out with people. Being a short man, he climbed a tree in order to see Jesus. This Mafia Boss climbed a tree like a little child, because he was desperate! Jesus passed by He saw him and said, “I’m coming to your house to eat.” And later when they were eating together, this man repented of all his wrong doing and gave back all the money he’d cheated from people.

Agus grew up in a military family who lived in the military housing compound near our house.  While growing up he would see his soldier father beat his mother regularly.   She would go into the hospital, recover, get beaten again and return to the hospital. Finally one night Agus couldn’t take it anymore, and he grabbed a machete and went into the bedroom where his father was sleeping to slit his throat.  But at the last moment, God held his hand and he didn’t do it. Later that week, one afternoon when his father was returning from the military outpost, his father fell over in the front yard and died on the spot. They didn’t know if it was a heart attack or a stroke – but he was dead.

Agus had a wounded spirit from all the abuse he saw his mother endure for years from his father. He went on a path of rebellion for the next several years – in and out of jail, drunk all the time.  He was known as the “town criminal.” A ll of his brothers and sisters became Christians as did his mother.  They all witnessed to Agus. But he wouldn’t have any of it.  They began  to  say,  “He’s  too  wicked—he’s beyond grace.

Then one night Agus was getting drunk with his friends and he felt pressure in his chest and fell to the ground.  They rushed him to the hospital.  During that journey, Agus cried out “God save me. If I don’t die I’ll turn my life over to You.”

And God gave Agus another chance. He turned 180 degrees around overnight. I placed a Bible in his hands the next day and showed him how to do a “discovery Bible study” through asking questions and hearing God speak through the Word. I told Agus, “Whatever God says to you through His Word, do it quickly.” Every day Agus heard God speak to him through his Word. Every day Agus obeyed. And he grew rapidly in his faith, becoming one of my top leaders.

One day he came to me and said, “If we hear God speak to us through his Word, we have 48 hours to obey. If we don’t do what He asks within two days, we lose that Word.” I thought about it – and agreed it’s true!  And this has become our motto in our movement – the 48 Hour Rule!  God speaks – you act within 48 hours!

The Poor

One day Jesus was visiting the temple in Jerusalem with His disciples.  As they were exiting He saw an old widow put two coins into the offering box.  He then pulled His disciples aside saying “she put in more than anyone else here.” His disciples were confused. They didn’t get it. Other people had put in lots more she gave everything she had, so she gave more than
anyone else.”

Where we live and work with broken people is located in the eastern most part of Indonesia called Papua. The people are often considered the poorest in the country. And indeed our groups are made up of poor people finding new lives in God. Some are now getting jobs and often they give back 100% of their paychecks to God.  They are so thankful they have gotten a second chance at life. A few years ago two pastors from a large church in Singapore came on a mission visit to Indonesia starting in Jakarta and ending up in Papua. They happened to be in Papua on a Sunday so they attended a celebration that we do with all our groups. They sat in the middle of this exciting service with several hundred people giving heart-felt praise to God.

At the end of the service, our leader, who himself used to be drunk on the street, noticed two guests among us who had come from far away.  He thought in his heart that they probably had to spend lots of money to buy a plane ticket to come to Papua, so we’d better help them.  He had no idea they were from a very affluent church in a very wealthy part of the world. He just knew that we should help them.  So at the end of the service he called out, “Hey before we close off let’s take a special offering for our guests” and he called everyone forward to put money in a basket.

Then he called these two pastors forward to receive it.  As he put the money in their hands, they began to cry. And they said to me, “We’ve gone around the world and everywhere we go people know we’re from Singapore and they always put their hands out asking us for money.  This is the first time anyone has ever given us an offering!” And I answered back, “That’s because our people don’t know they are poor.”  Poor isn’t in the pocketbook, it’s a person’s way of thinking. God uses the poor for the Kingdom.

The Jesus Perspective

In all these stories, we see that Jesus never considered someone the object of ministry. They were all subjects of ministry.  Matthew 10:8 says, “Freely you’ve been given, freely give it away.” That’s a principle of reproductive movements happening around the world today.  Everyone is on a journey to God and as they take one step in the right direction, they take someone else’s hand and bring them along too. God is using the Least of These to do the work of the Kingdom today.

This is an article from the November-December 2017 issue: Movements Make All The Difference In The World

Passion for God - Compassion for People

Passion for God - Compassion for People

ACCESS MINISTRIES ARE ONE OF THE pillars of New Harvest Ministries (NHM) since its inception and they have played a major role in manifesting God’s compassion, in making disciples, and in planting churches in more than 4,000 communities in 12 countries.   These compassionate engagements have been key catalysts in the transformation of hundreds of thousands of new disciples, and more than ten thousand new Christian leaders.

Compassion for people is an essential Kingdom value found in the DNA of every Disciple Making Movement. We have dozens of different types of access ministries and each one plays its unique role in helping us advance the kingdom of God in Africa. Most are not expensive, but with God’s help, uniquely impactful.

Every ministry is pursued in partnership with locals. Locals often provide leadership, labor and materials— things readily available in the community that can be made to serve needs.

Heroic Compassion

New Harvest serves many countries but is headquartered in Sierra Leone. When Ebola struck in 2014, we could not stay in safe places and not engage the disaster that was all around us, especially in Muslim communities where burial rites were causing the epidemic to explode in many villages. People could not even touch dying parents or children.

In that context there were several New Harvest leaders who volunteered in the most hazardous places.  Some survived but several lost their lives serving others— mostly Muslims.

The Muslim chief of one community was discouraged by  people  trying  to  escape  the  quarantined  village and amazed at seeing Christians coming to serve.  He privately prayed this prayer: “God, if you save me from this, if you save my family, I want us all to be like these people who show us love and bring us food.”

The chief and his family did survive and he kept his promise. Memorizing passages from the Bible, he began to share in the mosque where he had been an elder. A church was birthed in that village, and the chief continues going village to village sharing the Good News of God’s love.

Discovering Felt Needs, Engaging Lostness

For NHM, access ministries begin with assessing the felt needs of a community. When a needs assessment is completed, the partnership with the community must develop mutual respect and trust. In turn the relationship eventually leads to story-telling and Discovery Bible Studies (DBS). Access ministries make the love of Christ visible and leave an indelible mark in hearts.

The On-Ramp to Kingdom Movements

Prayer is the foundation for everything we do. So once an assessment is done, our intercessors begin to pray for:

• open doors and open hearts

• the selection of project leaders

• open hands by locals

• a supernatural move of God

• the leading of the Spirit

• God’s provision of needed resources

All our prayer centers know the communities being served and they fast and pray for each of them. And God always opens the right door, at the right time, with the right provision.

Prayer is the most powerful and effective access ministry, and has caused a cascading effect throughout the movement. Beyond any doubt, we are convinced that strategic fasting and prayer consistently leads to the undoing of dark powers. Sometimes praying for the sick is a wonderful accelerator of access itself.

Through persistent prayer we have seen very hostile communities opened, unlikely Persons of Peace identified, and whole families saved.   All the glory goes to the Father who hears and answers prayers. Intercession is the undercurrent that supports all we do. I tell people that the three most important elements of access ministries are: first—prayer, the second is prayer, and the third is also prayer.

Every Project Makes Our King Famous

We do whatever it takes to get the gospel to the people so Christ is glorified. Our work is never about us. It is about Him. We are making Him known with a strategic focus on unreached people groups.

Education Team

When education is an obvious need, then the intercessors take this need to God in prayer.

While we are praying, we engage the community to discover what resources are available, and what they are ready to provide to meet their own need. Often the community will supply land, a community building, or construction materials for the development of a temporary structure.

Usually the community is encouraged to pay part of the teacher’s salary. The teacher is fully certified and he or she is also a veteran disciple maker/church planter. Schools start with a few benches, pencils or pens, a box of chalk, and a chalkboard. The school may start under a tree, in a community center, or in an old house. We start slowly and grow the school academically and spiritually.

When a Person of Peace opens his or her home, it becomes the launching pad for DBS meetings and later a church. We have launched more than 100 primary schools, most of which are now owned by the community.

From this simple program God has also raised up twelve secondary schools, two trade technical schools, and Every Nation College which has an accredited School of Business and School of Theology. Contrary to what might be expected, Disciple Making Movements also need strong seminaries.

Medical, Dental, Hygiene

When we identify a health need, we send in teams of well-qualified medical practitioners with medicines, equipment and supplies. All our team members are strong disciple makers and skilled in facilitating the DBS process. Many are skilled church planters as well.

While patients are being treated, the team is busy looking for a Person of Peace. If one is not discovered on the first visit, then a second visit is made. Once discovered, he or she will serve as the bridge and the future host for the DBS. If this person is not found, then the team will find another community, while still praying for an open door into the previous one.

Dental

Ten church planters have been well trained, equipped, and accredited by health authorities to do mobile dental extractions and fillings.  Another, who doubles as an optometrist, checks eyesight and dispenses appropriate glasses (at cost—so as to keep the process going and to avoid dependency).

Other health team members provide training on hygiene, breast feeding, nutrition, child vaccines, and prenatal care for pregnant women.

A Most Unusual Access Ministry

When all of this is done in a Christ-like manner, seeking to make the kingdom of God visible, God moves and makes His presence evident. This typically starts with one family or an unlikely community leader. In this way we consistently see the ongoing multiplication of disciples, Discovery Bible Groups, and churches.

There was a large community in the Southern part of Sierra Leone that had been very difficult for us to penetrate. They were extremely hostile toward Christians.  It was difficult even for people who identified as Christians to enter that place. So we prayed for that town. But time passed and none of our strategies worked.

Then suddenly something happened! The national news began to report that there was a health problem in that town and young men were becoming ill and dying.  It turns out that they had determined that the infections related to the fact that the village never circumcised their boys. As I was praying about the problem I felt the conviction of the Lord that this was finally our opportunity to serve this town.

We  gathered  a  volunteer  medical  team  and  went to the community with the proper equipment and medications and asked if they would let us help them. It was wonderful when the town leaders agreed.  In the first day they circumcised more than 300 young men.

Over the next days the men were just healing and that was our opportunity to begin Discovery Bible Groups during the healing days. The response was remarkable and soon Kingdom multiplication began happening with churches being planted.

The place where Christians could not enter was transformed in just a very few years into a place where the Glory of God was manifested. The compassion of God’s people, the power of much prayer, and the transforming Word of God changed everything.

Agricultural Team

Our first access ministry was agriculture.  In lands where  farming  is  critical,  agriculture  becomes  a great gateway to serve people. Most of the farming is subsistence farming and primarily for family consumption. Typically, no seed is reserved for the next planting.

These situations led us to develop seed banks for farmers. As with our other teams, we have trained agriculturists who are trained church planters. These agriculturists/disciple makers educate the farmers. Their training and mentoring lead to relationships that result in DBS groups, baptisms and eventually churches. Today many farmers are followers of Christ.

Sports Team

Sports ministry is another phenomenal access, especially in communities with a large population of young people. When assessments are made, and we discover a number of youth and a passion for say soccer, we immediately move into action by throwing out a challenge for our powerful team to play a “friendly.”

If a town does not have a good team, we encourage them to get players from nearby so they can field a good team. Once this is done, we often provide jerseys and soccer balls to help with their training.

When game day comes the whole village is in a festive  mood  singing  the  praises  of  their  team. They are totally confident they are going to win. Our  team  goes  into  the  game  knowing  what will happen.

They play competitively, but in the end they will lose, intentionally.

When victorious, you can imagine the town’s excitement. This becomes a point of pride. The story doesn’t end here. We normally ask for a rematch. With great confidence, the community responds, “Come anytime. We will beat you again!”

The return match is usually played at the earliest possible date. In the second game, our team will play very professionally making sure they thrash the host team mercilessly. After their pitiful defeat the atmosphere becomes more charged as the community team will immediately ask for another match.

The reason for losing the first game is to build a strong relationship with the community. We are convinced that discipleship boils down to one thing—relationship. Every relationship has two main dimensions, a connection with God and one with man.

The point of the game is to create an environment that will lead to DBS groups and eventually churches. Many churches have been planted, disciples and leaders raised up that rapidly multiply within their tribes or communities. Today, we celebrate many coaches and players who have become committed disciples, disciple makers and passionate church planters.

Planting Churches

About  90%  of  our  attempted  access  ministries have led to a church. And very often several churches are planted from one engagement.  As we revisit communities we hear many testimonies of individual, family, and community transformations. Compassion for people, making God famous!

This is an article from the November-December 2017 issue: Movements Make All The Difference In The World

Beyond the Person of Peace

Beyond the Person of Peace

I HAVE HEARD PEOPLE SAY THAT THEY have had a Disciple Making Movement training and implemented it, but are not seeing the results expected. Some even say it is not working for them at their place of ministry.

In 2005, when I had the training myself for the first time, I said the same thing: “This will not work where I am.” But, when I decided to implement it, I saw, and keep seeing results anywhere the DMM principles are implemented.

I have spent time with people for which it is “not working.” In every case, they don’t implement the whole system. They choose one or two principles and implemented them. They see some addition of new Christ followers, but not the multiplication and movement momentum they expected.

There are two things that people almost always choose to implement: the principles of Person of Peace and Discovery Bible Study. Even so, they often don’t fully or intentionally implement these principles.

This article is about implementing the principle of the “Person of Peace” in a way that it leads to multiplication and a movement. This principle is a key element in the process of Disciple Making Movements. But, to see it produce its full result, it must be implemented the right way.

I. The concept

We find the concept of the “Person of Peace” in the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples when he sent them out in Matthew 10, Luke 9, and Luke 10. In essence, Jesus told his disciples that when they enter a community, their priority will be to look for and find the person of peace. If they find one, they should stay; if not, they should leave (Luke 10: 5-11).

The Person of Peace is very important in the process of Disciple Making Movements. Every DMM is a work of God, not man. If God is not yet raising up people of peace, there will be no movement. Remember, Jesus sent his disciples before him into places where he himself was about to go and then said “… The harvest truly [is] great, but the laborers [are] few; therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (NKJV: Luke 10: 1-2).

The presence of the Person of Peace in a community is the proof that God is at work in that community. Not only that, that person is the doorway to the community and to the Kingdom harvest in that community. Usually he or she is also a harvester that will need to be coached and mentored into that role.

There are several examples of Persons of Peace in the New Testament, such as the Centurion (Luke 7:1–10), the Samaritan Woman (John 4:1–30), the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26–40), Cornelius (Acts 10:9–11:1), Lydia (Acts 16:13–15), and the Philippian Jailer (Acts
16:22–38).

II. Who is she/he?

Aly had been visiting a community looking for a person of peace. When he met Kone he identified him as a person of peace. Kone was very friendly, welcoming and hospitable. After three visits, Aly realized that Kone was not a person of peace. They had some good conversations during which Aly tried to introduce spiritual topics, but Kone had no spiritual concern he wanted to discuss. His interest was only friendship with Aly.

Many people meet this kind of person and think they have found a person of peace. They will spend a lot of time with these people and won’t see anything happening that leads to making disciples. They become frustrated and conclude that DMM is not working.

The person of peace may have a good reputation, but not always. They often are hospitable, helpful, or friendly.

But the most important characteristic that describes the person of peace is that she or he has personal spiritual concerns or questions. No matter their religious background, they usually have some spiritual dissatisfaction or questions. This dissatisfaction is caused by the fact that God is at work in their life, and the Father is preparing them to accept the gospel and become a catalyst to bridge the gospel into the community. Their presence in the community usually means that God is at work in that community. 

In summary, the person of peace: 

• Is a non-Christian – Jesus sent his disciples into the harvest among non-saved people. 

• Has spiritual questions and is a seeker. 

• Manifests that God is working through him or her. 

• Demonstrates that God has him or her to receive the gospel. 

• Their presence in the community means that Jesus is visiting that community; God is at work there. 

III. How to find the person of peace 

Disciple makers find people of peace through a process of much prayer, providing some service or kindness in the community, and living out a gracious spiritual lifestyle (Deut. 6: 4-9). This article is too short to expand on this here. 

IV. After finding the person of peace, what 
is next? 

Know that God is at work in the community and join Him. There is a harvest to be reaped. The person of peace is a seed… the harvest is beyond them. The person of peace has a social network of family, friends, and colleagues. And each of those have their own social network. And these social networks overlap. The person of peace is the doorway to all these social networks. 

Lazare spent unfruitful years trying to plant churches among the Malinke people in a West Africa country. Then he had a DMM training. He started finding persons of peace in different communities. But each time he found one, in his excitement, he just led them to Christ and then went looking for more persons of peace. He missed the whole point of God’s strategic work. He was finding lots of persons of peace, but not planting any churches. 

The best thing to do when one finds a person of peace is: 

1. Focus on their social network in the community. 

2. Don’t rush to lead them to Christ by themselves. 

3. Have them invite members of their social networks. 

4. Do Discovery Bible Studies with the group that the person of peace puts together. 

V. Discovery Bible Study Group 
The Discovery Bible Study is the tool to use to help the group to discover Christ and their need of him for salvation. The discipleship process starts with the DBS as the tool for that. This is discipling the group toward conversion. 

The Discovery Group is also the tool to use to build the DNA of replication in the group. By the time the group makes a decision for Christ, they have learned the value of obedience to God, sharing everything they learned, and reproducing what they have experienced. 

VI. A new church starts and reproduces 
The Discovery Bible Study group moves from a discovery group to a new church when these new believers are baptized and start functioning as a church. The new church will require more coaching and mentoring to have its own leaders and start the same process elsewhere. 

The person of peace is key in the process of Disciple Making Movement. But, for them to play their God given role in DMM, they must be intentionally coached and mentored into that role as described above.

This is an article from the November-December 2017 issue: Movements Make All The Difference In The World

Disciple Making Movements in East Africa

Disciple Making Movements in East Africa

CITY TEAM INTERNATIONAL MINISTRIES has been catalyzing Disciple Making Movement (DMM) in partnership with Lifeway Mission in eight countries in East Africa for the past twelve years.

The eight countries in which Disciple Making Movements are developing are Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and Sudan.

In this region, the Lord has enabled us to engage 89 people groups and nine urban affinity groups.

Since the day we started the faith journey of disciple making 12 years ago, we are awed by God for the thousands of new churches that His Spirit has birthed, and the hundreds of thousands of people that have become Christ followers.

Over these 12 years God was pleased to bless us with the planting of 7,571 churches with 185,358 new disciples. Fourteen generations is the largest level of multiplication we have yet seen in any single people group.

It is our pleasure to share a few of the recent narratives of what God is doing and what His fingerprints look like in this region— because He is worthy of much glory!

For security reasons, we have used pseudonyms and have refrained from revealing locations.

A Drunkard Becomes A Disciple Maker

Jarso is the leader of a stream that has planted 63 churches in two years among a least reached people group in East Africa. Four months ago Jarso was baptizing new Christ followers from that people group. Jillo, who was not a follower of Christ, was watching from a distance while Jarso was conducting the baptism.

With a beer in his hand, Jillo observed the proceedings and began to make fun of the baptism prelimanaries. Before conducting the baptism, Jarso read the story about Jesus’ baptism and began to talk about it. Now within the hearing distance of the preaching, Jillo found himself deeply absorbed with what he heard. At the end of the story, he knew he needed to follow Jesus. Right away he decided to stop drinking and even threw away the half- finished bottle of beer he was holding.

He went home early that evening. His wife was amazed to see him sober and empty handed because he usually brought home a couple of bottles to drink. His wife offered to bring him a bottle of beer which she had bought for him earlier in the day.  Jillo shocked her by telling her that he had stopped drinking, and she should take the bottle back to the shop and get a refund.
Jillo, who did not read or write, then asked his wife to bring the Bible that they had in the house and read for him the story of Jesus that Jarso had read at the baptismal ceremony. The wife came with the Bible and when she finished reading the story, Jillo shared with her what he had heard from Jarso.

That evening, Jillo and his wife made a decision to follow Jesus. The next day, Jillo contacted Jarso who showed him how to do family Discovery Bible Study. From the next day onward, Jillo and his wife together with their children began to do a DBS every evening.

Two weeks later, Jillo, his wife and some neighbors who joined their Discovery Bible Group were baptized.

Jillo and his wife have continued this journey by facilitating the launch of eight more Discovery groups.

A DMM Skeptic Starts A Strong Movement of
Disciple Making

Agali gave Disciple Making Movements training to a group of pastors in 2015. From those who took the DMM training, a pastor named Roba came to him and expressed serious doubts that existing churches could make this kind of change.  Agali did not argue but challenged Roba to start the process in his community. Roba took the challenge and went to his community in search of a person of peace. The community was predominantly a Muslim community where the men like to gather in the public square in the afternoons to drink tea and to socialize.

Roba went to the public square one afternoon. He greeted the men and offered to buy them tea telling them he had come to get to know them. He told them although he is a Christian and they are Muslims, they have been neighbors for a long time and as people who honor God maybe they should know each other better. The Muslims invited Roba to sit with them. As they were chatting together, Roba got an opportunity to tell them a story from the Bible. He told them the story of Zacchaeus. The men were attentively listening to the story and when he reached the part of the story when Jesus said “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a son of Abraham,” his listeners became more attentive when the name of Abraham was mentioned. After finishing drinking tea, and as they were parting they invited the pastor to come again with more stories.

A few days later, Roba joined them again for tea. After the usual greetings and talking about current happenings in the community, Roba asked them if they remembered the story he had told them in his first visit. They told him they did. He asked them to repeat the story for him, which they did. After repeating the story, a lively discussion followed. One of them asked Roba if he believes that Jesus is God. Roba threw the question back to the men and asked them, “if Jesus in the story of Zacchaeus was able to give salvation to men, does this not show that Jesus could have divine attributes that are not found in men?” Some of the men responded in agreement by nodding their heads.

These meetings over tea became frequent and regular. In a natural progression of the relationships, many Discovery Bible Groups and churches were established among these Muslims, resulting in 32 small churches.

A New Testament Rahab

Our church planter, Wario, met a young woman two years ago named Rahab. This woman was very beautiful, and when Wario first met her, she was, like her Bible namesake, a sex-worker.
Wario began to tell her the story of Rahab from the Bible including the one quoted about her in Hebrews 11. He told her how the life of Rahab was transformed from a life of prostitution to a woman of faith and how she entered into the genealogical line of Jesus.

Rahab had never read the Bible for herself. But she knew that in the Bible there was a woman who was called Rahab and that she had been a prostitute. This she had learned from various people who heard her name. But when she first heard the full story of Rahab from Wario, she was touched and asked Wario if she could be like the Rahab of the Bible.  Wario said “yes” and offered to pray for her. In that process she was eventually delivered from demonic bondage.  After that her life changed dramatically.

She became a very strong follower of Christ and a disciple maker. She married a Christ follower and the couple became committed disciple makers. Over the last year they have planted six new churches in their community.

New Wineskin For New Wine

When Pastor Kamau was invited to conduct a DMM training among a group of pastors from a particular district, he did not expect much to happen. They were skeptical because the people of the district were known as very nominal Christians and the existing churches had lots of strong church traditions that did not advance the gospel. Pastor Kamau saw little hope that the pastors of these churches would take up the challenge of Disciple Making Movements and apply them among their people.

But happily, Pastor Kamau was proved to be mistaken. Just four months after the DMM training, that region had seen 98 new Discovery Groups, four generations deep in some streams.

Pastor Ado shared that the DMM training which he took from Pastor Kamau changed his mindset. Ado reported that immediately after he took the DMM training, he replaced the Sunday preaching with Discovery Groups to see what would happen, if any of the people would report back about how they obeyed God.

He relayed that his members reported renewed joy in their relationship with God and with each other. Some members reported being healed of sicknesses during the prayers of the Discovery Group.

Pastor Ado says the members of his church were also coached to start Discovery Groups in their homes and in their neighborhoods and 42 more groups were started in just a few months.
One Catholic lady by the name of Christy came to be a follower of Christ as a result of attending one of the Discovery Groups and she started another group which kept multiplying to the fourth generation. A Catholic church began to use Discovery Groups to read the Bible and discovered how to obey God’s Word.

Pastor Jillo concludes his testimony that if the current trend continues, it is likely the whole district will be transformed through the gospel.

This is an article from the November-December 2017 issue: Movements Make All The Difference In The World

Can They Do It?

Can They Do It?

EPHESIANS 4:11-13 HAUNTED ME!

While Ephesians was probably my favorite epistle from which to preach and teach, this section convicted me that my training had been inadequate and even misguided. How do you do something differently when it is all you have seen?

Paul writes:

He [Jesus] gave some as apostles, and some as prophets,
and some as evangelists,
and some as pastors and teachers,
for the equipping of the saints for the work of service,
to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

(NASB, formatting mine, JKK.)

Are You Equipping the Ordinary?

Apostles are the “sent ones” who are commissioned to impart Kingdom culture on earth as in heaven, especially in the places where the gospel has never been heard. These are the Kingdom workers who are the tip of the spear, the ones going to the nations which will not issue missionary visas.

Prophets communicate heaven's vision here on earth. They help people imagine “What will our community look like when God’s will is done here?” Business, education and entertainment will all be transformed as God’s vision becomes our goal!

Evangelists share the good news with the passion of Jesus wherever they live, work and play. Gifted with an overflowing desire to see everyone know and love Jesus, those infused with this grace gift cannot refrain from talking about God’s love for everyone. Pastor/ teachers build divine community by training people in relational skills. Here “family” becomes the healing motif for many of the broken places in our lives and our neighborhoods. Evidence of their work will show in reconciliation and shifted priorities.

But Paul is not primarily focused on these “grace gifts” (whether they are fourfold or fivefold)! His major concern is that all these gifts are used “for the equipping of the saints” enabling them to do the work of ministry.
The purpose for these equipping gifts is to build up the body so that all reflect the character of Jesus and we look, act and sound like our heavenly Father!

We become men and women of honesty and integrity. We use our speech to build people up rather than tear them down. We work rather than cut corners and steal from others. We forgive as freely as we have tasted God's forgiveness. We all become servants who minister with compassion and proclaim the Kingdom, like Jesus did (Ephesians 4:14-32).

Movement Paradigms

While people who function with apostolic authority are absolutely essential to pioneer missionary breakthroughs, the prophetic, evangelistic and pastoral must follow quickly if the Kingdom culture of heaven is to transform a village, town or region of a city. To see a movement among a people group, all of these grace gifts must be utilized to produce the character of Christ within every disciple, family of disciples and friendship group of disciples.
The Preacher/Master Teacher model which has been so deeply ingrained in the North American church does not easily replicate, though. It requires a long time, expensive education and slowly gained experience which becomes a governor slowing the growth rate to a crawl. But that was my existence!

Disciple Making Movements (DMM) especially focus on the apostolic. Core DNA centers around bringing the  reign  of  Christ  into  reality—especially  where his name has not yet been heard. More of what the Western church has been doing will not bring us into the obedience called for in the Great Commission. Making disciples of all the nations was honestly not on my radar. I had accepted too small a role in the Kingdom—maturing some of those who had come to follow Jesus, but how can we follow him if we are not making disciples?

The Replication Paradigm

The first paradigm shift for me was accepting the DNA principle that: “Whatever you do has to be reproducible by the people you train.” “Can they replicate this?” is an earth-shattering question to force yourself to answer. My four-year Bible degree and two Master's degrees argued that you have to have a Bible Dictionary and a Concordance at a minimum, if you are going to really study the Bible.

How can you equip people for ministry if you cannot
train them to feed themselves spiritually? While I could argue they could all purchase a Concordance and Bible Dictionary, here in the U.S., what about people in churches where there was only one copy of the Bible for the whole church? God blew open my box by taking me to West Africa a few months before the first DMM training took place. 

The Discovery Paradigm 

Discovery became the answer. How do we get people to slow down and really listen to what the Word says? How do we get them to answer basic questions which go a bit farther than general reading comprehension, but not too much further? Many of my earliest attempts were far too complicated and demanded too much technology, but that nagging question kept popping back in my brain: “Can they replicate this?” Of the sixty I attempted to train in a simple inductive Bible study process, five could not read and write. How do you make the Word and Discovery accessible to oral learners, too? 

Disciple Making Movements actually demand catalysts who learn to hear from God and apply what they discover to their life in concrete actions—appropriate obedience. Legalism is applying a list of rules someone else gives us. Obedience is being responsive to God’s directions. Equipping the body requires us to become coaches more than great players. Good coaching models incredible trust in the Holy Spirit. It acknowledges that God produces better outcomes than the coach can. It believes the resources are in the harvest. The Kingdom advancing force will arise from God’s harvest field, if we will disciple the body to do disciple making in the Jesus style. 

The Coaching Paradigm 

Training entails learning skills. How do you coach a Person of Peace to facilitate a Discovery Group consisting of her friends among the travelling soccer team parents? What questions will you consistently use with her till she has confidence facilitating? When is she ready to facilitate a group with ongoing coaching? When does she need less of your presence? Coaching and good training work well together, but in the DMM world much of our training is intentionally done to find the few who are willing to be coached. Most in the Western Church are not willing to be coached. Even those who become willing often require many exposures to critical principles and experiences of experimenting with Discovery processes. 

Finding a Person of Peace becomes the greatest hook to “reel in” those of us who have been “captured” by Movement thinking. “Taste and see...” may be the opening invitation. Seeing the joyful transformation in the life of a Person of Peace following a Discovery path is intoxicating. 
Helping ordinary people experience breakthrough in making disciples gives me great joy! It far surpasses the fulfillment of having a Christian say week after week: “Great sermon! I never heard it put that way before!” 

Multiplication Goes Where We Cannot 

My first efforts to disciple disciple-makers came in the Rutherford County Jail which is just a few miles from my home in Murfreesboro. While I could only visit with any single inmate for two 45 minute sessions a week, he was spending 24-7 with more than 50 guys in his pod and twice a day, Seven days a week he could meet with guys from an adjoining pod in the exercise room. Training him to facilitate a discovery study offered far more capacity to bring the gospel to the jail. Three years after he was released I was working with the 17th different facilitator of a group study which had been continuously taking place. As friends in Africa heard about this group, they were able to gain even more access to prisons and jails. Many more were discipled to faith and on to maturity. 

You know you are using better strategies when you find out that a Chinese girl at a university in the U.S. is facilitating a Discovery process with her mom in Inner Mongolia via Skype. While the daughter was not a believer at that time, she valued what was happening in her heart enough to replicate it with someone she loved. Recently the girl came to faith—we are praying her mom does, too. I cannot help but wonder if there may be others back in China who are close to the kingdom, also. 

Floyd McClung has said, “Apostolic people take the church to the world; they don't wait for the world to come to the church.” We need apostolic people to reach the large percentage of Americans who will not come to our churches. We also need prophetic, evangelistic and pastoral workers joining hands with the apostolic to equip the body to grow up into the fullness of Christ! 

Are the people you are discipling able to disciple others to become disciple makers. Disciple making movements are multi-generational or they are not truly movements! 

This is an article from the November-December 2017 issue: Movements Make All The Difference In The World

Discovering the Fruitful Practices of Movements

Discovering the Fruitful Practices of Movements

OUR MISSION ORGANIZATION LAUNCHED in 1978 with a noble goal: Send lots of missionaries to work among the unreached. In the 1990s, thanks to careful thinkers like Dr. Ralph Winter, we sharpened our focus toward unreached people groups. Our goals no longer counted workers alone, but in addition, number of unreached people groups engaged. We carefully trained all our workers in language learning and identification with locals. We emphasized church planting.  We  hoped  and  prayed  that,  once  each team of workers was engaged with the people, those workers would only need a year or so to plant each new congregation. We fully expected that it would take longer, of course, to train up a nucleus of new leaders.

Sometime after the year 2000, thanks to researchers like Dr. David Garrison, we began setting goals for Church-Planting Movements (CPMs). In this “third version” of our organization, we had noticed that our “beachhead churches” sometimes stayed beachheads. By contrast, in the book of Acts, the disciples did more than establish a single new church in each region or country. God “added to their numbers.” Accordingly, we began urging our workers to plant churches that would plant churches. Our goalsetting process began measuring not only churches planted, but also churches that were planting new churches.

By 2010, we were engaged in a bit of a revolution. I'm not even sure what to call it but, for lack of a better term, we'll call it Disciple Making Movement (DMM) thinking. The difference might seem subtle at first. In fact, it was very fuzzy to me at first as well. But once understood, the outcome was rather profound.

The Fruitful Practices

Regardless of your opinion of DMM practices, the electricity and sheer energy generated by DMM- thinking is hard to miss. While earlier trainings focused on tactics and strategy, DMM was, at first, too simple for my mind to grasp. One of the central tenets, as articulated by DMM trainer Curtis Sergeant, is simply to “be a disciple worth multiplying” (BADWM). (Isn't it just like Jesus to bless a system of practices that focuses on changing from the inside-out?)

David Garrison had identified extraordinary prayer as being the first of several critical factors in launching Church-Planting  Movements. But for some reason, it took us a decade or more to understand that this extraordinary prayer had to begin inside of us as workers rather than in some infrastructure or campaign. In other words, to change the world, we had to change ourselves.

Our early efforts at launching movements had been heavily influenced by American business practices such as strategic planning. Now, it almost seemed too simple to tell a new worker that he or she needs to acquire a kind of “passion for telling God's story.” I guess we all want our jobs to be tactical and strategic. Somehow, we must think it makes us look more intelligent maybe. Training workers to do prayer-walking and facilitate Discovery Bible Studies (DBS — or, as Curtis Sergeant calls them, three-thirds groups) just seems too... easy.

Another practice first described by Garrison in his landmark book, Church Planting Movements, was even harder to grasp. Our temptation when new believers begin encountering persecution is to remove them from the context. Some have referred to this practice as extraction. No matter what it's called, it's the first response of the human heart. The trouble is — once we remove a practicing believer from his or her context, the momentum stops. Not only can this new believer no longer reach his or her household (“oikos”), but in addition, the fire... the energy... the electricity is gone. Somehow, God seems to bless those who are persecuted in a way that we don't understand. And the outcome is amazing.

It seems odd to highlight obedience and accountability as core practices of launching movements. Haven't we believed in obedience all along? Yes — but somehow, we began to equate obedience with (mostly) learning about Jesus... instead of focusing on doing what He told us to do. It's good to measure church attendance. But it's even better to figure out how to measure whether or not those attenders actually do anything about their faith. Again, pointing back to a core teaching of Curtis Sergeant, “It is a blessing to follow Jesus. It is a great blessing to bring others into a relationship with Jesus. It is a greater blessing to start a new spiritual community. It is the greatest blessing to equip others to start new spiritual communities.”

For a couple of decades, our organization focused on bringing others into a relationship with Jesus, then we focused on teaching them the concepts of the Bible, almost equating spirituality with knowing concepts. But Jesus didn't want people who merely knew things. He told them that if they loved Him, they would do His commands.

One of the toughest practices to grasp is discovery-based learning. Perhaps it's so difficult because it's so easy. Critics are quick to accuse DMM-practitioners of dumbing-down the gospel. After all, shouldn't new believers have to endure extreme and in-depth training before they're entrusted with the job of telling the Jesus story? But the truth has been staring us right in the face for centuries. How long had Jesus known the man possessed by an impure spirit (Mark 5:1-20) before he sent him back to his household of faith (“oikos”) to tell them how much the Lord had done for him? Maybe a half-day at the most. Whoa. We've seriously been overthinking this. And this guy in Mark 5 was about  to   change   history  for  his   home  region of Decapolis.

Those are pretty much the core of the core. BADWM, passion for telling God's story, praying for those in persecution (but not extracting them), obedience, and discovery-based learning. The truth of the matter is, it now can take as little as 20 hours or so to train a disciple to start multiplying. Twenty hours

The Fruit

Exactly how does this DMM process play out and what are we asking our team members to do daily? We're teaching them how to move into a new area, learn the language and culture, pray a lot, and live in such a way that he or she is “conspicuously spiritual” while meeting felt needs in the community.

Our workers practice the art of becoming a disciple worth multiplying, anticipating that someone will notice (seekers). We introduce these “open people” to stories about Jesus and His life. We might mention a passage in which Jesus teaches about honesty and explain that, for this reason, we're returning a small amount of money that many would consider petty.

Then we ask if the individual likes that idea. If he or she responds positively, we ask if they'd like to hear more teachings of Jesus. The people who say “yes” to these kinds of questions are of the utmost importance to us. They are what some trainers call “persons of peace,” harkening back to Jesus' words in Luke 10, when sending out the 72 disciples.

Our workers start three-thirds groups with these interested parties. In those studies, our workers simply introduce a new story from Scripture, then ask questions such as, “What did you like about this passage? What seemed difficult? What does this passage teach us about God? What does this passage teach us about people? If we believe this passage is from God, how must we change? Who are you going to  share  this  passage  with  before  we  meet  again? With whom will you tell God's story?”

Those who are seeking will want to meet again. Those are the people in which we want/need to invest our time. We repeat these processes until our new “people of peace” become believers, then disciples, then group leaders on their own. Using this simple approach, our workers expect to start groups which multiply. It works overseas — but it also works right here in the USA.

In one field, the team worked for some 15 years to establish the first beachhead church. But by introducing DMM principles, they multiplied into seven groups within the next 12 months. In another field (a Muslim land), the group struggled for 10 years with almost no fruit. Upon beginning DMM principles, they had five new groups launched (and multiple baptisms) within the first year. In yet another field, our workers weren't even sure how to begin for the first 5 years. Upon implementing simple DMM practices, in the next 17 months, they were able to see 112 groups come into being with more than 750 individuals in attendance on a weekly basis. Particularly significant is the fact that, during those 17 months, 481 of those new followers were baptized and many of those are already discipling others. Now, some years later, as this article goes to press, that field has seen groups multiply over 16 generations (the original group has had great-, great-, great-, great- [to the 16th generation] spiritual grandchildren).

The movement saw 165 baptisms in July (2017), and has had 845 baptisms and 143 new groups formed so far this year.

Taken all together, our workers have seen a major uptick in fruit since transitioning to DMM practices (see accompanying graphs on these pages). Last year, there were over 300 groups formed, well over 1,600 baptisms, with a combined attendance in all churches and groups (launched by Team Expansion workers and their partners) of nearly 24,000 souls. God is at work through the  278  Team  Expansion  missionaries in
42 countries.

The Transition

Throughout the past years, we've heard several horror stories about transitioning to DMM models from the traditional, “box church” approach. Some agencies like ours have reported that when they changed to DMM approaches, they lost 30 to 40% of their personnel. Apparently, some people don't like to change. Thanks only to God above, we haven't yet seen that kind of disenfranchisement. Here are some factors that might be helping us— but keep in mind [disclaimer]— these are only guesses AND things could go south at any time.

• From our early roots, our organization has always treasured innovation. One of our Seven Great Passions is, “Creative,  strategic  perseverance until the  results are achieved.”

• We had pushed “extraordinary prayer” from the outset as well. Our first publication was a prayer calendar for our first field. Garrison's writing just sealed the deal even further. So when DMM practices came along, they seemed culturally appropriate because they are part of our DNA.

• It was hard to deny the fruit. First, we saw it in the lives of the case studies we studied, and in the stories told by trainers. But then, a couple of our early-adopting teams experienced similar harvests and — how could we argue with God's blessing on their ministry?

• DMM practices were embraced early by several of our senior leaders. Interestingly, I wasn't necessarily among them. It was not that I was opposed. I just couldn't get my arms around it initially. The training seemed too “fuzzy.” It wasn't until I broke it down into practical, bite-sized steps that it was approachable and doable for me. (See the outcome at http://www.MoreDisciples.com)

• We purposefully decided not to rush people into this transition. We allowed them time (years, in fact). Once they saw fruit among their peers, it became easier for them to transition.

• Stories helped ease the jump. We changed names of people and places, but told lots of illustrations to convey the reality. We shared reality. Some stories were good news, while some were sobering.

• Senior leaders gently and humbly modeled the behavior for me (their president). But for complete alignment, I had to become personally involved too. I couldn't just preach it.

If your organization or church is considering transitioning to DMM principles, try one or more of these options:

• Listen to the podcasts and read the blog entries at http://www.MoreDisciples.com

.

• Take a “trial balloon” group through the Zume training material at http://www.ZumeProject.com (Both. services are free.)

• Read Stubborn Perseverance, by James Nyman (Author), Robby Butler (Editor), David Watson (Foreword), and Jerry Trousdale (Foreword)

• Read T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution, by Steve Smith (Author), Ying Kai (Author), and David Garrison (Foreward),

• Read Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus by Jerry Trousdale.

• Read The Kingdom Unleashed: How Ordinary People Launch Disciple-Making Movements Around the World, by Jerry Trousdale and Glenn S. Sunshine (available March 2018).

Don't hesitate to contact Team Expansion for more updates on their journey—www.teamexpansion.org.

This is an article from the November-December 2017 issue: Movements Make All The Difference In The World

When Disciple Making Movements Are Misunderstood

When Disciple Making Movements Are Misunderstood

“WHAT YOU ARE TELLING ME IS THAT what we have always done has always been wrong.” That is what a father of a friend of mine said to him when he tried to convince his father of a non-traditional way of doing church. This is one of the significant challenges of missional paradigm shifts. How do you make a shift in thinking, and encourage others to follow, while not dishonoring the past or being misunderstood?

Those of us who are advocates of Disciple Making Movements believe, often passionately, that traditional assumptions related to discipleship and church planting need to receive a fresh and prayerful analysis.  We question whether we in the West have added aspects to church planting that unnecessarily slow down the process and make multiplication diff icult — and finishing the task seemingly impossible.  We also believe that bifurcating evangelism and discipleship has resulted in many converts who are not obedient disciples.  Our observation is that this approach has rarely led to multiple generations in church planting.

As we communicate this, however, there are times when people may hear us saying things we are not saying, or perhaps we say things in a way which causes them to hear incorrectly. This article is meant to address some of the key potential communication challenges that we, as advocates of movements, need to clarify.

The approach to this article will be to focus on six principles within DMM that release multiplication. For each of these we will juxtapose that principle against the Unintended Limiting Factor that seems to exist in many traditional models of discipleship and church planting.  Next, we will identify the area where we DMM advocates might be misunderstood, and finally clarify what it is we really meant to say.

Two caveats before we begin:  First, though I have worked closely with many DMM advocates and practitioners around the world, this article is from my perspective of DMM. And, second, I do not mean to imply that accurate communication on these areas will eliminate areas of disagreement. In some cases they will probably still remain.  Perhaps they need to.

Multiplication Release Principle #1 — God uses ordinary and untrained people as disciple-makers who make disciple-makers and thereby become church planters.

Unintended Limiting Factor – Church planting and discipleship are formal processes and are best reserved for those approved, trained, and vetted by their church or denomination.

What some may hear us saying – DMM does not believe in roles such a pastor, teacher, prophet, or ordination into the ministry.

What we meant to say – God can and will use ordinary people to be disciple-makers who make disciple-makers and therefore plant churches.  This wave of people who are released will need coaching and encouragement from spiritual leaders who are willing to release them and coordinate and bless their efforts. There are biblical roles for overseers, shepherds, and elders though they make look different than what we have traditionally understood.

Multiplication Release Principle #2 –
People best become disciples of Jesus through personal and group discovery which focuses on obedience.

Unintended Limiting Factor – Those who have received theological training should be the ones to teach people what they should know and believe.

What some may hear us saying – DMM never believes in teaching, only discovery.

What we meant to say – The Holy Spirit of God can use the Word of God and create the people of God. It is that simple. Therefore, God can and does use the untrained to be disciple makers and church planters.   There is very little explanation for the phenomenon that happened in the Thessalonian church (I Thessalonians 1:5-8  – Paul was only with them for three weeks) apart from this.

During the Reformation we got the priesthood of the believer half right, and we seem to be still working on the other half.  The half we got right is that we do not need a priest to talk to God.  The half we are still working on is that we also do not need a priest in order for God to speak to us.

However, as people grow in Christ there are appropriate times where teaching can augment their continued discovery.  It is good for them to know the history of the church and see how they and their people fit into a global and historical Church.  It is helpful to know historical backgrounds of the Bible and hear how others have lived out the teachings of Jesus.

Care, however, has to be exercised in the early stages. Our early intervention of teaching can thwart the essential personal and group development of the disciples’ capacity to hear directly from God and obey Him. The result can be a knowledge-based approach which stunts true biblical discipleship and makes the individual and group to be dependent on a teacher.

The disciples, realizing they do not have the skills and biblical knowledge of their teacher, conclude that their responsibility is just to sit and continue to learn. This often turns into a lifetime habit. This ecclesiastical sterilization stops generational multiplication right in its tracks.

In a DMM approach ordinary people learn to hear from God and obey. Because it was simple, and led by the Holy Spirit with them, they are able to help other ordinary people to hear and obey and the process continues unabated.

Multiplication Release Principle #3 –
Leadership training is best done as ordinary people are serving and true spiritual giftedness and capacities emerge.

Unintended Limiting Factor – Leaders are expected to be fully trained before taking leadership responsibility.

What some may hear us saying – DMM does not believe in formal training in Bible colleges, seminaries, or church leadership programs.

What we meant to say – An individual with no training at all can pray and fast and sense God leading her / him to where they will go make disciples who make disciples, and plant churches. But, formal training has a definite role. The best approach for formal training, however, is as workers are making disciples and planting churches. The greater their responsibility, and the more effective their efforts, the greater their need of more training. And, we must be aware that formal training will take on a different approach among oral learning cultures.

My context is among Muslim people groups in Africa. DMM leaders here will watch an individual who is taking disciple making and church planting seriously. As they begin Discovery Groups and begin to plant churches they will say, “You need some more training.” When churches reach the 3rd and 4th generation they will say, “You need some formal training.” And, in cases where workers are coaching and mentoring others who are working cross-culturally, those workers have been sent to seminaries here in Africa for cross-cultural training. My observation is that there is more training, not less.

DMM is not against formal training but does question the approach of doing all, or even most of the formal training before ministry has started. In many cases the Western model is to do all of our biblical, ministry, and cultural training before that individual has ever discipled anyone or planted a church.

There are several significant disadvantages to this approach:

(1) Some candidates, faced with the daunting challenges and expense of “getting prepared” simply drop out;

(2) Being theologically, culturally, and linguistically trained, we can depend on what we know instead of the One who is to be known; and

(3) We create a professional class of Christians and the ordinary people leave the work to them, therefore disempowering most of the Body of Christ.

Multiplication Release Principle #4 –
Disciple making is the goal. This leads to multiple-generational church planting. This is the potency in the process of “going.”

Unintended Limiting Factor – “Church planting” is the goal. This is defined as people gathering in some larger group setting, often in some sort of building.

What some may hear us saying – DMM advocates believe that we should do away with attractional-model churches.

What we meant to say – Most of us have attended, still attend, or have meaningful partnerships with attractional-model churches. As some have pointed out, elephant churches do have the size and capacity to accomplish very needed objectives. It would be disruptive, and counter-productive to Kingdom advancement, to suggest that attractional model churches are the impediment.

It is important, however, to ask critical questions. Is the current model the only one needed as we move forward? Is it possible that our current model encourages attendance without discipleship? What do we do with the growing percentage of people who are not responding to this approach, even in the West? Can it scale, globally, to reach the 80 million more people on the planet in 2017 and 2.5 billion more by 2050?

The Church of the first three centuries adequately passed the faith along, generation to generation, while penetrating to the core of the Roman Empire.  This was all done as they were going and obedient disciples were willing to give their lives. In today’s world where persecution is a reality, there is often no other option anyway. However, even in places where it is possible it is legitimate to question whether it (i.e. the attractional model) is the only way, or even the best way to engage lostness and see multiple generations of churches.

Multiplication Release Principle #5 –
Prayer and fasting precedes any movement.

Unintended Limiting Factor – We have a reliance on strategic plans, training, research analysis and human resources that can be brought to the equation

What some may hear us saying – DMM does not believe in strategic planning.

What we meant to say – Of course, everyone believes in prayer. And, to varying degrees, it is a
part of our daily lives. I have accompanied numerous groups to observe DMM in very difficult contexts. The number one comment during debriefing (and this happens every single time) is, “I thought we were praying, but this experience has shown me how they, as a result of prayer and fasting, are able to hear from God and follow His leading.”

Fasting and the sequence of prayer in our planning is the urgent matter.  When we pray and fast first our spiritual sensitivity is increased and our strategies and initiatives become aligned with God’s purposes.  He reveals Himself to us. We join Him in what He is already doing.

Too often in the West we meet collectively and develop a strategic plan, with good intentions, and a lot of effort.

But, does this come after an extensive season of prayer and fasting where God revealed Himself and His plan? Far too often in my own experience I have worked hard on a strategic plan and then asked for God’s blessings on it.  This vital lesson has been the most impactful for me personally with DMM.  Strategic plans are great when they have come to us from Him, as we are diligently seeking His face.

Multiplication Release Principle #6 – The church is the people, and they can meet anywhere.
Unintended Limiting Factor – To be a “real” church you must have a building.

What some may hear us saying – DMM is opposed to churches having buildings.

“The Church of the first three centuries adequately passed the  faith along, generation to generation while penetrating to the core of the Roman Empire. This  was all done as they were going and obedient disciples were willing  to give their lives.”

What we meant to say – We are called to be disciple-makers who make disciple-makers.  If every local body of believers must have a building it will slow the process of church planting down, if by no other means than finances.  However, buildings will be a reality for many churches in many cultures.

Our goal as disciple-makers should be to cultivate the vine and only build the trellis as the vine is growing and needs support.  Because buildings do put a governor on movements we would encourage that this be done spontaneously by those who are in this discipling process, not from the outside.  Even then, it will at that point slow down the generational expansion. Realistically, however, such has always been the case as movements become institutionalized.

Conclusion

Across the world we are seeing movements emerge and gain momentum. Perhaps this is the 4th era of modern missions. Paradigm shifts create tension, but I trust that our communication will be seasoned with grace. May we conclude with Paul, that the most important thing is that Christ is preached.  And because of this [we] rejoice” (Philippians 1:16).

This is an article from the November-December 2017 issue: Movements Make All The Difference In The World

Spirit-Led First Steps Birth Movements with Essential DNA

Spirit-Led First Steps Birth Movements with Essential DNA

VIJAY ’S PRAYER WALKING JOURNEY LED him to a town where he was not known. He went there because the people were part of an unreached group that he wanted very much to see reached. But as he walked around, he got nothing but unfriendly stares. “Who are you?” challenged the man at the shop where he stopped for his morning tea. “Why did you come here?”

As an outsider and stranger, Vijay faced a delicate situation. What he did next could make the difference between an open door into this community or a closed one. A well-trained, Spirit-led response could cause the word to spread quickly that this stranger is “okay.”

DNA begins with the first steps.

Whether or not he realizes it, a catalyst’s first steps in a new community have even deeper significance. They set the pattern of health for the future church he hopes to start. The very DNA of future churches begins with what the disciple maker does in his first days. Those beginning steps leave a mark on every church in the movement for years to come. Will future disciples be known for reflecting the compassion of Jesus? Will they bring transformation? Will they replicate? Will the movement be sustainable?

Catalysts of Disciple Making Movements (DMM) face Vijay’s situation all the time. In southern Asia, it is rare to experience friendly and open acceptance in new communities. Disciple makers have only one chance to make good first impressions. But what is the best way to do that — through an expensive social project, or through a host of Jesus followers who have eyes to see what Jesus sees and a commitment to respond like He did?

Personal, spontaneous and locally relevant

Traditional approaches to entering a new community frequently involve predetermined programs. They often depend on outside resources and systems that require paying and sustaining workers and activities. These tactics often do result in birthing a church. But they are seen as impersonal and new churches end up with serious flaws in their DNA. Vital elements of disciple making must be taught or “grafted” in later when the church is well established.

Well trained Disciple makers who follow biblical patterns, are better able to demonstrate compassion in ways that are uniquely meaningful and relevant to each community. They learn to do things that do not require costly programs. These disciples are deeply in love with God, and thoroughly familiar with and obedient to His ways. They begin by seeking His guidance through prayer for every new community.

When Catalysts introduce DNA that reflects this lifestyle, new Discovery Bibles Studies launch and lead to birthing of new churches. They become known for their lifestyle of love, compassion, power and truth modeled after Jesus. New disciples see that they have the resources to start new groups, leading to multiplication to the 3rd and 4th generations.

Three stories illustrate the difference this makes in an unreached area.

“You don’t have to suffer like this.”

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

Stephen was walking through a village, praying as he went. In conversations with residents, he learned they were being decimated by an outbreak of the swine flu. He began asking how many people were affected and how many had died.

It was heartbreaking to hear of the loss of life, because he knew they did not have to suffer like this. A free vaccination was available from the government, but they knew nothing about it or how to get it.

So, he met with the leaders and informed them about the vaccination. He helped them carefully document the number of people living in the village so that the right number of vaccinations could be sanctioned. The leaders sent a delegation with him to the proper authorities and got authorization for the vaccinations.

“Why did you do this for us?” people began asking Stephen. One family immediately invited him into their home. He began a Discovery Bible Study with them. Soon, that Discovery Group became a new church. That family started another DBS in another place which also grew into a church. One of the new disciples from that church quickly started another group on their own. Within a short time, this grew to three generations of churches.

Compassion as a lifestyle is a key characteristic of Jesus’ disciples. Ordinary people demonstrate compassion as a part of their daily lives. Stephen was not seen as a representative of an organization. He simply showed genuine concern. He knew of a resource that could help, and he made the connection.

How can I help?

“Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals….” Luke 10:4

According to Jesus’ instructions, Samuel took no extra money with him as he began visiting a village of about 150 homes. As usual, no one would speak to him, but he prayed for a way to connect with these people.

He noticed children running around, uncared for and undisciplined. He learned these were children of working parents who had no time or skills to help them with their school work. The public school they attended did not offer to help them learn how to study and prepare for exams. So, they were left unattended for most of the afternoon.

Samuel was prompted through prayer to tutor them himself. There was a large tree in the center of the village where he offered to meet and tutor these children. He began with five and soon grew to fifteen. After study time, he would share Bible stories, teaching them to be good and to obey their parents.

The parents began seeing changes in their children. One couple observed what he was doing and invited him into their home, eventually telling him of problems in their marriage. Soon Samuel was sharing Bible stories with the whole family. He would ask what they learned from the stories and what they would do about it. This group began to grow. Then the ninth-grade daughter started another group with five of her friends. Then mom and dad started another group in the community where they worked.

Going into a community without any resources to share is counter-intuitive. It is more common to bring something from outside. This traditional approach focuses on helping the community with something they cannot do for themselves. However, good intentions are often interpreted
as “buying” the right to be listened to,  a  common assumption in most of Asia . There is hardly anything more damaging  to the start of a movement than to perpetuate an approach that leads to this misunderstanding.

Determined not to be a burden
“You remember, brothers, our labor and toil: We worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:9

Dileep found another way to serve the community. He got a job selling newspapers. This way, he was no burden to the community and had a way to get to know people.

At one house on his delivery route, a man named Ravi would come out to pay for his paper. One day, it wasn’t Ravi, but his wife, who came out of the house. “Where is your husband?” he asked. She explained, “He hasn’t been well for two weeks. We even took him to the hospital for treatment, but he is not getting better.”

Dileep asked, “May I come in and talk with him?”

So, Dileep visited with Ravi, hearing all about his problems and sharing the story of God’s creation of the world and care for mankind. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I will pray to God that He might heal your sickness.” The next morning, Ravi was feeling better. This led to regular visits by Dileep and more stories from the Bible. The visits then became a discovery group of seven. Very soon, one of the seven started another group of five.

Dileep’s creativity led to both personal income and an ongoing avenue of connection. Once a relationship was established, all he had to do was continue what he had been doing. Sustainability can’t be an afterthought. A program can run out of resources, but a life of self-sacrifice is a continuing testimony to God’s grace.

Personal, relevant and ongoing
Three disciple makers found that a personal commitment to see needs and to meaningfully love their neighbors in response bore lasting fruit.

In one case, the disciple maker saw the problem and helped the community avail itself of a government resource. In another, he used a personal resource–his own time and effort to tutor children. And in the third, he found a job to sustain himself and be available without being a burden.

All three were trained and mentored to operationalize principles from the Scriptures, turning them to practical action steps that achieve strategic impact. In the complex world we live in, the way forward requires a host of disciples who live and operate with eyes wide open and the conviction that God will use them to make a difference. The result is the birthing of new gatherings with this same DNA imbedded in them from the very beginning. There is a remarkable difference in the vital characteristics of movements that start this way.

This is an article from the November-December 2017 issue: Movements Make All The Difference In The World

The Storyline of History

The Last Lap

The Storyline of History

Too often we ask the wrong question: “What is God’s will for my  life?”  That question  is  very self-centered. It’s about you and your life.

The right question is “What is God’s will?” Period. And then “How can my life best serve that?”  To  glorify  God’s  name, you must understand what God is doing in our generation—what He is about.

To figure that out, you need to know what God is doing in history: the storyline that began in Genesis 1 and will finish in Revelation 22. Then you can find your place in the historical plot.

For example, King David uniquely served God’s purpose in His own generation (Acts 13:36) precisely because he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). He sought to contribute his efforts toward the Father’s storyline.  The Abrahamic promise (inherit land and become a blessing to the nations) took a huge leap forward when God found a man who would have His heart and serve His purposes. According to 2 Sam. 7:1, there was no place left for the Israelites to conquer.

Our Father’s heart is the storyline of history. He speeds up the plot when He finds protagonists who have His heart.

God is calling up a new generation that will not just be in the plot but that will finish the plot, hasten the story to its climax. He is calling out a generation that will one day say, “There is no place left for the kingdom of God to expand” (e.g. Rm. 15:23).

Knowing the storyline is knowing God’s will.

Once  you  know  the  storyline, you can take up your place in it, not as a side character but as a protagonist  driven  forward  by the power of the Author.

The grand storyline began in Creation (Genesis 1) and ends at the  Consummation  (the  return of Jesus — Revelation 22). It is the story of a great race. Each generation runs a lap in this relay race. But there will be a final generation that runs the last lap—a generation that witnesses the King taking His reward for His history- long efforts.

There will be a last lap generation.

Why not us?

God is setting us up to finish the story, if we choose to accept the role.

Don’t forget the storyline: Remember!

In the last letter he wrote, Peter called disciples not to forget their part in the storyline (2 Pt. 1:13-15). Peter had been living for the day of his Lord’s return, running his lap in the race. As his death drew near, he exhorted the church to not slacken the pace but rather to speed up the storyline—to hasten that day.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God! (2
Pt. 3:11-12, emphasis added)

In the last chapter of his life, Peter once more reminded them of the grand purpose—the storyline:

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that   you   should   remember   the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. (2 Pt. 3:1-2, emphasis added)

Their hearts were sincere, but it was  easy  for  them  to  forget  the plot   and   lose   their   purposeful role. Sincerity is no substitute for purposefulness   in   the   storyline of history. Are you purposefully taking up your part in the great race?

Peter reminded them of the storyline given by the commandment of Jesus:

And  this  good  news  of  the  King’s reign  will  be  heralded  throughout the whole world as a sacrificial witness to every people group [ethne], and then the end will come. (Matt.
24:14; author’s translation)

Do you know the storyline?

The Purpose of History

This fundamental storyline runs throughout   the   Bible   weaving its way through each of the 66 books. Yet it is so easy to forget the storyline, and many scoff at such a thought:

Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?” For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation. (2 Pt. 3:3-4)

This reality describes our generation, not just Peter’s.

What is the storyline of history?

• CREATION:   In   Genesis 1-2,  God  created  mankind  for one purpose—to become a Bride (companion)  for  His  Son  to dwell with Him forever in loving adoration.

• FALL:     In    Genesis    3, through sin, mankind fell away from God’s design—no longer in relationship with the Creator.

• SCATTERING: In Genesis 11, languages were confused and mankind was dispersed to the ends of the earth—out of touch with the redemption of God.

• PROMISE:  Starting  in Genesis 12, God promised to call the peoples of the earth back to Himself  through  the  blood-price of a Redeemer proclaimed by the good news-sharing efforts of the people of God (the descendants of Abraham).

• REDEMPTION: In the Gospels, Jesus provided the price to pay the debt of sin to buy back the people of God—people from every ethne (people group).

• COMMISSION:   At   the end  of  His  life,  Jesus  launched the   people   of   God   to   finish the mission of God—the great storyline—and  promises  His power to do so.

• DISCIPLE-MAKING: From the Book of Acts until today, the people of God have been blessed for one great mandate: go into all the world and proclaim this redemption—making disciples of every ethne—to be the complete Bride of Christ.

• CONSUMMATION:     At the Consummation, Jesus will return to take up His Bride— when she is complete and ready.

Everything from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22 is about calling back Jesus’ Bride from among the nations. Until the Bride is complete, the mission of the church is not finished.

This is the storyline Peter referred to in his last chapter.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Pt. 3:8-10, emphasis added)

God is patient. He will not send His Son back until the storyline is finished. God is not slow, for He does not wish any people group (ethne) to perish. He wants all of the dispersed nations of Genesis 11 to be a part of the bride of Christ in great number.

It is these ethne that Jesus referred to in Matthew 24:14. It is these ethne that he referred to in the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20 “make  disciples  of  all  ethne”). It is these ethne that are pictured in Revelation 7:9.

The climax of the storyline of history is a complete Bride presented to the Son with a great wedding banquet to celebrate.

In Peter’s last chapter, he referred to the gathering of this Bride and references Paul’s writings also: Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting  for  these,  be  diligent  to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.   And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters.…(2 Pt. 3:14-16, emphasis added)

Paul referred to the same storyline using the same words:

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify  her,  having  cleansed  her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without  blemish….  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:25-27, 32, emphasis added)

Paul referred to the same plan in Ephesians 1:

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

God’s plan from Creation to Consummation has been to regather  people  from  every language and culture to return to the authority of Christ as His Bride forever.

But right now, that Bride is incomplete. She is still missing an arm, an eye and a foot. Her dress is still blemished and wrinkled. While  the  Bridegroom  stands  at the altar ready to wrap His Bride in His arms, the Bride seems to be in little hurry to get herself prepared for the Wedding Day.

But the posture of the Bride is changing. This is one of the great distinctives of our generation, and it points us to the uniqueness of our lap. Over the last two decades the  global  church  has  increased the pace to engage the remaining 8000+ unreached people groups in the world—the parts of the world still not represented by the Bride in great numbers.

This was a good first step, but engagement was never the goal. Since over 2 billion people in the world still have no access to the gospel, our efforts to engage them must change. We are about reaching them, not just engaging them.

Jesus told us to pray for the kingdom to come fully on earth as in heaven (Mt. 6:9-10). When the gospel engages an unreached place, the kingdom of God must break loose. Jesus always envisioned disciples making disciples to make disciples and churches planting churches which can plant churches. This is what happened in the Book of Acts. It was the DNA of early discipleship that each disciple should be both a follower of Jesus and a fisher of men. (Mk 1:17)

Jesus is not satisfied with a small or incomplete Bride. He wants a Bride that no one can count, from each of the ethne. The only way to do so is through the kingdom multiplying in every one of them. Momentum is building for movements of God to become common again. In the last 20 years the number of these movements   around   the   world has grown from fewer than 10 to around 600. God is accelerating the timeline of history!

Yet there are still thousands of unreached people groups and places that have no multiplying church among them. With Peter, we must join God in speeding up the plot line toward its finale.

Hasten the day

Since all these things are thus to be  dissolved,  what  sort  of  people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12  waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God!....(2 Pt. 3:11-12, emphasis added)

“Waiting for” means to be in suspense  about  something.  What are you in suspense about? Are you eagerly  anticipating  the  finale  of this grand plot? God has given us an amazing privilege of joining him in the race of history to accelerate the pace of the Church towards the finish line. The finish line is in sight and by the power of the Spirit we can run the final lap.

One of the greatest finishes—last laps—in  swimming  history  came in  the  2008  Beijing  Olympics  in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay. Michael Phelps and the other three Americans were the underdogs. By the  final lap,  they  were  almost  a full body length behind the leader. Three  quarters  through  that  last leg, unheralded Jason Lezak began to push harder than he ever had in his life. He sped up his pace beyond all expectations. In the last second he reached out to touch the wall to win. As the crowd went crazy, the   announcer   kept   saying,   “I can’t believe it! It’s not possible!” Someone that the crowd had never heard of swam the most amazing final lap in modern history.

Replays of that race reveal two groups hastening this extraordinary finish:

1.     Lezak’s  three  teammates standing at the finish line urging him to increase his pace

2.      Jason Lezak increasing his exertion beyond what appeared possible

A great cloud of witnesses who have run the race before us (Hb. 12:1) spur  us  on  onward.  What  better way to honor their efforts than to finish what they began?

There will be a generation that speeds up its pace through a final faith-filled, sacrificial effort by the power of the Spirit to exceed all expectations.

And, then, when the Bridegroom is ready, He will return.

Make haste!

Before Peter signed off, he gave one last great call for the believers to make no delay in taking up their part:

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort [lit. “make haste”] to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.... (2 Pt. 3:14, NIV)

Do you long to see revival come to you, your church or your organization? The answer is to make haste to be the type of people that are doing your part in the storyline of history. When you serve the storyline of history, the Father is thrilled to pour out His Spirit for that effort.

God is calling us to take up our part in this great race. Unfortunately for much of the Church this is simply frolicking in the pool completely oblivious to the race going on around them.

Instead of frolicking (living for your own storyline) you must jump into the pool and swim the final lap with sacrificial efforts. Become a protagonist in the story—not a side character.

Choose to focus on reaching every unreached people and place, but do so  through  Acts-like  movements of multiplying disciples, churches and  leaders. Only then can we truly saturate whole areas with the eternal gospel of our coming King.

Ask “What is God’s will?” and “How can my life best serve that purpose in this generation?”

Jesus promises His powerful presence to all who join in that effort....(Mt. 28:20).

Some  generation will finish the final lap. Why not us?

This is an article from the November-December 2017 issue: Movements Make All The Difference In The World

Cutting Loose The Anchors That Keep Us From Movements

Cutting Loose The Anchors That Keep Us From Movements

I AM SURE IT IS  NO SURPRISE to our regular readers that I believe that Church Planting Movements are the biblical means, modeled by Jesus and Paul, whereby Jesus followers can become disciple-makers who make disciple-makers and plant reproducing churches.  It must  be our goal to foster these movements in every people so every person has access to the  gospel. This is exactly what the new global 24:14 Coalition seeks to accomplish. See the Kingdom Kernels column by Steve Smith and Stan Parks in the Sept.-Oct. 2017 issue of MF  for  more information on this. And don't miss Steve Smith's latest column in this issue starting on page 40.

These rapidly growing movements are now an increasing reality around the world with over 600 documented examples of Church Planting Movements where Jesus followers really are making disciple-makers generation  after generation. In this issue, we have provided story after story of how Church-Planting Movement methods, frequently referred to as Disciple-Making Movements, are transforming lives and equipping ordinary people to be disciple-makers.

But this is not typically how ministry has been done, both in churches and on the mission field. Making the transition to employing CPM  principles can be difficult. But as our lead article by Doug Lucas demonstrates, when these simple methods are employed,  they lead to amazing  results (see pg. 6). Doug Lucas did not start out as a true believer in the CPM methodology, but  the experience of the organization  he leads, Team Expansion, has been one of marvelous transformation and growing fruitfulness. See the various charts and graphs in this article to see how God  has blessed their efforts far beyond what they expected.

Many have looked upon these CPMs/ DMMs with disbelief and suspicion, wondering, "How can these movements grow so rapidly while the church is stagnant or in decline in the U.S., Europe and other  places?" The answer rests with what we have not done—equip average people to make disciples--along with all the extra-biblical  things the Church has added to gospel ministry that have slowed our progress.

Like a speedboat loaded down with too much gear and too many anchors, the Church is on the verge of sinking in too many places. Forward progress is often unthinkable-survival  is the critical issue. But if we could loose this "speedboat"  from all that is hindering it, then rapid progress could  once again be possible. The key is to return to what is truly biblical and empower average people as the royal priesthood  that  they are to become entrepreneurs of new ministry—living on mission with God to make disciples. Here are a few "anchors" to consider dumping overboard.

Anchor #1: Traditional
Structures-The Captain  Rules

We probably have all heard of churches where the focus is on serving the pastor's vision of ministry and the programs he has initiated rather than on equipping and releasing every willing believer to live on mission with God as a disciple maker and church planter. Many pastors have a very traditional view of ministry that does not include the training of the congregation for active disciple making. Under these kinds of structures the average person is encouraged to be a passive listener/ follower rather than an active initiator of new ministry. The pastor can actually feel threatened by people who want to express their leadership gifts in starting new outreach efforts. People who want to establish multiplying groups or churches may be seen as a dangerous virus to control or eliminate rather than  entrepreneurs of ministry that should  be supported and encouraged. One characteristic of Church-Planting Movements is that they are designed to be engines of leadership development as each person is encouraged to make disciples and establish new groups.

Anchor #2: Restrictive Religious
Practices and Doctrines

Since the time of the Apostle Paul when he employed simple, biblical and reproducible  models of ministry in making disciples and planting churches, the church has added a lot of  things to church ministry that are not simple, biblical or reproducible by the average person. These practices prevent movements from developing. I could make a list of things the Church typically does that limit growth and I would have people defending each of those particular practices. At whatever point CPM practices differ from what your church typically does, you will need to ask yourself, “Is this truly an essential biblical practice or simply a non-essential thing and is it worth stifling the growth of disciple-makers and the planting of reproducing churches in order to keep doing it.

Anchor #3: A Broken Compass

Most churches are operating with a broken compass. They often think their job is to get more people into the church on Sunday and increase the income of the church. A church can be very successful at doing both and still be a complete failure at what Jesus has asked us to do. Jesus commanded us to go and make disciple-makers. This is the central purpose of every church and the standard by which we should judge success or failure of our efforts. If a church is not producing disciples who make disciples then there is something seriously wrong with that church and its ministry.

A serious re-evaluation  of their efforts is in order.

A Once Vibrant Church- Planting Movement Is Now “Dead in the Water”
During the latter half of the 18th Century a Church-Planting Movement developed in England—often referred to as the Methodist Movement. They had home group meetings that they called “class meetings.” In these groups people came to faith in Jesus, learned to read by reading the Bible and singing hymns. They got off alcohol and left all sorts of sins behind. Their lives improved dramatically. It enabled hundreds of thousands of people to get better jobs, move into the middle class and provide adequate food and housing for their families for the first time.

As people matured in these groups, they could become leaders or itinerant preachers. It was  an  organic  process of leadership development that spread rapidly and literally transformed England. You can read more about John Wesley’s Church-Planting Movement in the Sept.- Oct. 2011 issue of MF starting on page 6.

Someone in this amazing movement decided to “improve” on the simple, biblical and reproducible methods of Methodism that had been working so well, thereby adding some “anchors” to their “speedboat.” First, they stopped requiring attendance at the “class meetings” which had proven so effective in helping to transform the lives of thousands. They began to rely on the impersonal Sunday morning sermon and worship service to do all the work of discipleship.

Secondly, they decided to require seminary education in order to be ordained into ministry  in  the  Methodist  church—another “anchor” added. No longer could a faithful and obedient follower of Jesus become a minister of the gospel from out of the “class meetings.” This killed the engine of leadership development within Methodism as relatively few could afford to leave work and family to obtain an expensive seminary education. There is nothing wrong with having well- educated pastors, but as Ralph Winter demonstrated in the 20th Century, there are far better ways to provide this education than to force people to leave their homes and ministries.

Most churches today have added the same “anchors” that the Methodist Movement did with similar results—churches that are “dead in the water.” They are going nowhere. They may still be “afloat” and there may still be lots of activity on the “boat,” but there is no movement and no clear destination. They seem to think that their purpose for existing is to maintain the boat.

The simple fact is that it does not have to be this way. Movements are possible— there are now over 600 documented cases of CPMs. People all over the world are learning to apply CPM/DMM principles and seeing movements develop as a result. Perhaps it is time for you to rethink the way ministry has always been done and cut loose some anchors that you have collected along the way. You might be surprised by a movement.

It’s a Girl—The Movie
Our last issue of MF covered the topic of Gendercide. The opening paragraphs of my editorial featured a story that was adapted from an actual account recorded in the documentary, It’s a Girl. It was my intent to give full credit to the movie and the great people who produced it, but somehow the footnote was left off. I apologize for the oversight. To access this wonderful film go to http://www.itsagirlmovie com. .I suggest you get your friends together and watch it. It is also available on Amazon Prime.

This is an article from the September-October 2017 issue: Gendercide

Spreading Global Insight

Spreading Global Insight

When I interact with workers and mission leaders globally, I realize how privileged my learning experience has been here at Frontier Ventures. What an honor to learn global missiology from key mission leaders and thinkers over 35 years—including Ralph D. Winter! In this column, I will describe our learning process, how it has served the mission movement and how it can continue to do so into the future.

How does Frontier Ventures gain insight?

In 1976, when Ralph and Roberta Winter founded the U.S. Center for World Mission (now Frontier Ventures) they considered the role of missionary orders to be crucial to advance the Kingdom. Thus, we are a protestant missionary religious order. Members of religious orders do some things in different ways, which I will not outline here. One way is that when someone joins, they make a commitment to the core purposes and overall direction of the order. Here is how we describe that in our bylaws:

…the primary purpose of the Order shall be: to serve the mission enterprise by identifying barriers and pursuing solutions toward Kingdom breakthrough to see the gospel of Jesus Christ unleashed and unhindered among the least reached, so that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).

In order to serve the mission enterprise well, we realized we needed to (1) listen to what global leaders were learning and experiencing. Then, we sought to (2) share with others what we were hearing; and (3) interpret what we were hearing and point out potential gaps in mission strategy and practice.

How did we accomplish this?

My first thought is what we called our weekly Frontier Fellowship meeting. Every Thursday night we would meet from 7:00 – 8:30 pm. Normally, there were two visiting speakers—usually from very different parts of the world in different kinds of ministry. These presenters (usually global workers) did not do their usual “pitch” of their ministry and often they found it to be a great time to share more in-depth to an audience that cared. While those of us on staff were often weary from a week of work—which never really ended—we were regularly encouraged to see what God was doing. While I often wished I didn’t have to go to the meeting, I rarely left it feeling it was a waste of time.

It was like a weekly missions conference, but it was much deeper than what most churches would want for such an event. We learned so much from these speakers — who might be just off the field from work among various people groups in Africa, Asia, Latin America or Europe.

After the two speakers shared, Ralph Winter would get up and “wrap up” the evening. He only shared 10-15 minutes, but I regularly thought what he shared was challenging and profound—often inspiring.

What did we do with what we learned?

With all this great insight from people in a myriad of ministries from all over the world, we worked hard to communicate these insights we had gleaned through still other relationships with churches and mission agencies as well as through publishing in Mission Frontiers, the IJFM the Global Prayer Digest and William Carey Library. It fed into the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course.

What’s next?

Since I worked in our media ministry back in those early days, I was running the sound system and recording the sessions on cassette tape. Over the last few years, we have digitized over 3,000 audio recordings (from other presentations too…not just the Frontier Fellowship meetings). We also have hundreds of files of writings from Ralph and Roberta Winter, Donald McGavran, and others.

We are working hard to make these available in various ways. Our intended audience is interested mission-oriented folks and field workers, mobilizers, trainers, etc. We hope this valuable content will give you something helpful to reflect on and apply to your life and ministry. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and needs. Leave a comment below!

This is an article from the September-October 2017 issue: Gendercide

The Ripple Effect

Understanding the Societal Consequences of Gendercide

The Ripple Effect

Skipping rocks along the riverside can be a peaceful, even meditative, activity. But there’s always that one friend who wants to find the biggest boulder along the bank and heave it into the water. The ripple effect is impressive with waves that progress far outside the point of initial impact. When 200,000,000 girls are missing from the population, the societal repercussions are akin to those from a large rock hitting the water. There are many far-reaching and extremely interconnected consequences.

In an attempt to make a complicated issue more understandable and solvable, let's break it down using the image of the rock hitting the surface of the water. In your mind’s eye, imagine this rock colliding with the water in slow motion. The first wave after impact is the closest and most directly related to the initial disruption. “Bare Branches,” or men who are unable to find spouses in their community, are a direct result of gendercide. As the wave continues to gain momentum, “Bare Branches” then leads to other consequences – bride buying, child brides, increased prostitution and human trafficking. The wave continues as some distance is gained between the crest of the wave and ground zero. Now we begin to see consequences such as increased STDs, rising crime rates, and domestic violence. Girls and women missing from the population is not a singular event. Many people in multiple nations feel the consequences of gendercide. Each of these consequences will be explored to gain a better understanding as to why gendercide should be on the agenda of the global Church.

Bare Branches

The first repercussion to consider is how the gender imbalance in certain regions of the world directly impacts a man’s ability to find a spouse. “Bare Branches” comes from the Chinese word guang gun and refers to those men who will be unable to marry and thus will not add to the family tree.[1] While the term is Chinese, the concept can be applied to any community or nation with a large number of men unable to find spouses within their community due to gendercide. Christophe Guilmoto estimates that by 2030 “the female deficit in the 20-49 age group will rise to 26 and 23 million in China and India, respectively.”[2] The current population of Texas is a bit more than 26 million people.[3] Imagine if every person in Texas were a man of marriageable age who could not find a spouse. The ripple effect would not end there.

Bride Buying and Child Brides

This large number of unmarried men leads to another destructive repercussion of: bride buying and child brides. When millions of men cannot find suitable spouses within their community, they begin to look elsewhere. “Elsewhere” means the surrounding countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Russia, Uzbekistan, to name only a few.[4] In cultures like China where it is imperative that men marry in order to produce sons to carry on the family lineage, this marriage squeeze becomes an imposing issue. Marriage is no longer a sacramental act between two people, but a business transaction. Women become commodities. Since commodities can be treated as less than human, domestic violence is not uncommon in marriages where the woman was purchased.[5] Unfortunately, it is not only women of marriageable age who are bought by men seeking a spouse. A third of the world’s child-brides are found in India, where half of the women marry before the age of 18.[6] We already know from Guilmoto that there are millions of women missing from the Indian population. When there are not enough women to marry, girl children become targets for men seeking a spouse.

Zhang Mei is a victim of the domino effect of gendercide, which leads to women being trafficked for forced marriage. Originally from a poor province in Western China, she was forced to go east to marry a man fifteen years her senior. She was not kidnapped or coerced. Her parents sold her. She is not allowed to return home. Her ability to carve her own future vanished as she became the property of another human, not as a slave, but as a wife.[7]

Trafficking and Prostitution

Not all trafficked women, however, are bought as brides. Many of them end up in brothels or on the streets pimped out as prostitutes. And there is a direct correlation between a lack of women in a community and an increase in prostitution. In an article published in The World Bank Economic Review, two researchers estimate that, given the current sex-ratio trend, the percentage of men in China paying for sex will increase by 2-3 percent in the next thirty years.[8] The study was published in 2009, so in 2017 we are nearly ten years into the expected increase in prostitution. The mushroom effect continues as an increase in prostitution means an increase in sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. Syphilis, which was nearly eradicated from the area 50 years ago “is now the most commonly reported communicable disease in Shanghai.”[9] Women who were not initially at risk of contracting an STD in their home country or community are exposed after being sold as a wife or prostitute.[10]

Increasing Crime Rates

An increase in crime is another repercussion of gendercide. If one wanted to know the regions of India with the highest murder rates, they wouldn’t necessarily need to look up the number of people murdered in each region. Instead, they could look at sex ratios. Those regions in India with the most skewed sex ratios have higher murder rates. The correlation between skewed sex ratios and violent crimes is even higher than the correlation between skewed sex ratios and poverty.[11] While it has long been thought that when men outnumber women in the population crime rates increase, a direct correlation has historically been hard to nail down. However, one team of researchers took advantage of the sporadic roll-out of the One Child Policy in China beginning in 1979 and used the data to show that as little as a 0.01 increase in the sex ratio “raised the violence and property crimes by some 5-6%.”[12] When men outnumber the women, the commuity and nation suffer the consequences.



[1] 2011. The Flight From Marriage. The Economist. www.economist.com/node/21526329

[2] Guilmoto, Christophe. Characteristics of Sex-Ratio Imbalance in India, and Future Scenarios. Paper presented at Fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health, 2007.5. www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdf/regional_analysis.pdf

[3] United States Census Bureau. www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045216/48

[4] Hvistendahl, Mara. 2011 Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. New York: Public Affairs, 165.

[5] Hvistendahl, 171.

[6] UNICEF. Introduction to Child Marriage. www.unicef.in/Whatwedo/30/Child-Marriage

[7] Zhang Mei’s story can be found in Hvistendahl, 187.

[8] Ebenstein, Avraham Y. and Ethan Jennings Sharygin. 2009. “The Consequences of the ‘Missing Girls’ of China.” World Bank Economic Review 23, no. 3. 412. www.researchgate.net/profile/Avraham_Ebenstein/publication/46511479_The_Consequences_of_%27Missing_Girls%27_in_China/links/00b49534537bfcfc42000000/The-Consequences-of-Missing-Girls-in-China.pdf

[9] Tucker, Joseph D., et al. 2010. “Syphilis and Social Upheaval in China.” New England Journal of Medicine; 362:1658-1661. www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0911149#t=articl

[10] Hvistendahl, 193.

[11] Hvistendahl, 222.

[12] Edlund, Lena, et al. 2007. More Men, More Crime, Evidence from China’s One Child Policy, Institute for the Study of Labor Discussion Paper Series. Bonn, Germany. anon-ftp.iza.org/dp3214.pdf

This is an article from the September-October 2017 issue: Gendercide

Sex Selection

A Story From India

Sex Selection

It was an ordinary day like any other and I was on my way to our office on a cycle rickshaw in the morning. Midway I started to feel a sense of deep heaviness in my heart like carrying a big weight. It was quite unusual, so I started to pray to understand what it was all about. The Lord showed me a vision, a picture of our land soaked with blood. I kept on praying to ask the Lord whose blood it was and the answer that I received was that it was the blood of the innocent girls in our land who were killed before they were born.  The Lord was planting in my heart his own concern about the plight of girls in our country whose lives were snuffed out because they happened to be girls. This happened about 12 years ago but the memory of that experience is still vivid in my mind.  As I reached the office I shared this vision with our team members and we prayed together to find more clarity.

As we continued to pray for some time the Lord reminded us of a verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14, “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” We recognized that the Lord was bringing to our attention one of the “wicked ways” of our time – the practice of sex selective abortions, also known as “gendercide” or “female feticide” in our country. We realized that the Lord required us to take ownership of this social problem and seek His forgiveness if we wanted to see His healing come to our land.

We started to pray more intently seeking His guidance and to learn more about this issue as it was new for us. In the following months the Lord confirmed to us this call in different ways. We started to learn more and began sharing the concern in our training programs. One significant event organized was an Artists’ Residency program on the theme of “female feticide” in collaboration with one of our sister organizations. Art works produced in that residency program were exhibited under the title “The Disappeared” in an art gallery. That was our first public engagement on this issue. Since then we have continued our engagement with this concern and it has, in fact, become one of the primary focuses of our ministry.

The gravity of the problem due to sex selection has been highlighted by various demographers. Christophe Guilmoto, a French demographer, calls it “rampant demographic masculinization, a change with potentially grave effect for future generations.” Dr. Puneet Bedi, a practicing gynecologist in a famous hospital in New Delhi, says that it is “probably the single most important issue in the next 50 years that this country and China are going to face.”

The issue of sex selection or gendercide is linked to the unequal status of women in our society. The culture of “son preference” and “daughter avoidance” stems from the belief of superiority of men over women. This belief is at the root of various forms of violence against women such as female infanticide, dowry deaths, honor killing, rape, domestic violence, acid attacks, etc.  Discrimination and neglect have resulted in a skewed sex ratio, trafficking of women, purchase of brides, and increased incidents of crime against women.  The church in India can play a significant role in stopping this tide of violence by sharing a gospel message that accords equal value to women for being created in God’s image and redeemed by Christ to become co-heirs of God’s kingdom. This indeed would have been “good news” to millions of “missing women” in our country, but sadly the church has largely failed to proclaim and demonstrate this good news.

For the global church it also raises an important concern. In the book of Exodus chapter 1 we find an account where the king of Egypt had ordered Hebrew midwives to kill all the boys born to the Hebrew women, but let the girls live. The Egyptians were afraid of the growing population of Hebrew slaves. It was also a form of sex selective killing. But the midwives feared God and did not do what the king had asked them to do. It is written that because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own ( Exodus 1:21). The current trend of sex selective abortions can be traced back to policies framed and implemented to curb the rising population in Third World countries. These policies were aggressively promoted and financed by the World Bank and other international funding agencies who were alarmed by the projections made by Paul Ehrlich in his book The Population Bomb and had approved of sex selection as a means to curb rising population. When such policies are promoted by governments or multilateral agencies which are clearly in contravention to the commands of God, the global church can draw inspiration from the Hebrew midwives and their choice to do the will of God rather than that of men.

The power of the gospel to break the racial barriers of “Jew and Greek” could be evidenced in the first century but it took more than eighteen centuries to break the barrier of “slave and free.” How many more centuries will we need to break the barrier of “male and female” mentioned by Paul in Galatians 3:28? The need is urgent to both proclaim and demonstrate the gospel that reinstates the equality and dignity of women as part of the message of redemption and reconciliation in Christ Jesus. The urgency of the need is well highlighted by New York Times journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in their book Half the Sky:

“The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century.

In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. We believe that in this century the paramount challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world.”

With the objective to ensure equality and dignity of women and girls in our nation, we have been running a campaign named “Let her live.” We conduct awareness events among college students to sensitize them on the issue of gendercide. Dowry pops up as an important factor behind the practice of sex selection in most of our discussion with students. More than 1,500 students have so far signed a pledge to not take or give dowry and not to go for sex determination tests. Many of those students also enlist themselves as volunteers for various awareness raising events. In the last few years, the student volunteers have visited hospitals on the International Day of the Girl Child to give gifts to the new-born girls. It is a small gesture to celebrate and welcome the births of daughters. Our vision is that those students will become passionate advocates of the cause.  We are also sharing those ideas with churches and encouraging the churches to organize such events in the community. Some churches organized street rallies and street theater to share the message. We have been sharing prayer cards, prayer guides, and posters with churches to observe the International Day of the Girl Child. We facilitate a training program for churches on ending domestic violence through the formation of care groups. We need to work not only on the issue of sex selection or violence against women but also on the larger issue of value accorded to women in our society and in the Church.

As Christians, we have to bring in the inherent value of human beings and make it a moral campaign. We hope that the churches start taking initiatives in the community that will communicate the value and dignity of girls and women. When they start getting equal opportunities to exercise their gifts in the church, when they face no discrimination in their homes, schools, colleges and work places and when they are able to achieve their God-given potential without any hindrances or barriers, we will know that the birth of girls is no longer being viewed as a burden but is being welcomed and celebrated. This hope inspires us and fuels our work.

This is an article from the September-October 2017 issue: Gendercide

It’s a Girl, The Three Deadliest Words.

How Will the Church Respond?

It’s a Girl, The Three Deadliest Words.

Anaya is pregnant and along with her husband, Arjun, and their entire extended family, they are hoping their latest child will be a boy. Anaya lives in a remote village of northern India where advanced medical technology such as ultrasound machines is not available.  They will just have to wait and see. There are great social status and financial benefit for those families blessed to have a son. Anaya says, “When my son grows up we will arrange a great match for him and his new wife will join our family and she will take care of me and my husband in our old age. We will make sure to find a girl whose family will provide a good dowry.”

Soon the day of delivery arrives and Anaya gives birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. This is the eighth girl that Anaya has given birth to. Their dreams of a secure financial future are dashed. What will they do now?  A short time later Anaya goes for a walk carrying her new daughter to a secluded area near her home. She lays her yet unnamed daughter on the ground. Anaya pulls out a beautiful Indian cloth and places it securely over the baby’s face. After a brief struggle Anaya’s baby girl stops moving. Anaya digs a shallow grave and buries her latest baby girl next to her seven other daughters. Anaya says, “I felt we could keep it only if it was a male and kill it if it was a female child.”1

Anaya’s child is one of over 200 million “missing” girls according to United Nations estimates. More girls go “missing” from India and China every year than all the girls born annually in the United States. Anaya’s choice is but one method by which millions of girls have been eliminated. Most often the sex of the child is determined by ultrasound examination, even though it is illegal to do so, and abortion becomes the preferred method of terminating the pregnancy. The roots of this crisis have been around for centuries. The arrival of modern medical procedures to identify the gender and “quietly” eliminate the female child has turned a long-standing cultural preference for boys in India and China into gendercide—a holocaust of female children unlike the world has ever seen.

These diabolical systems of cultural and financial prejudice against women have to stop wherever they exist. The practice of paying a dowry must end. To his credit, Indian Prime Minister Modi has spoken out against the killing of girls but the Indian government at every level must get serious about enforcing the laws already on the books. Concerted efforts do make a difference as seen in the article starting on page 30.

It should be noted that the devaluation of women and the gendercide that results is not just an issue for India or China. It’s a global problem and sex selective abortion should be illegal in every country on earth. It is currently not illegal nationwide in the U.S.

Will the Church Provide the Answer?

The murder of girls is deeply rooted in the cultural devaluation of women that has existed in many cultures of the world for millennia. It is tragic that women themselves have felt so trapped by financial, cultural and governmental pressures that they have become at least unwilling participants in their own devaluation and murder. How can anyone read the stories from Jill McElya’s article starting on page 13 and not be dumbfounded by the ability of some to justify the routine murder of girls as a normal part of daily life rather than condemn it as the horrendous moral outrage that it is. The global church must speak out against this horror on behalf of the supreme value of girls and women created in the image of God.

As those possessing a biblical worldview and a commitment to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Church should be leading the charge against the devaluation of women in every culture where it occurs. The teachings of Scripture are very clear—both men and women are of equal value and worth as created in God’s image. As Paul says in Gal. 3:28, there is now neither male nor female. We are all equal at the foot of the cross as members of the New Covenant. Women are equal members of the royal priesthood of all believers. Women are equal recipients of all of God’s spiritual gifts, Acts 2:17-18. Both genders are equally responsible for carrying out Jesus’ command to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Mat. 28:18-20). Women have been called by God to be disciple makers and church planters right alongside their male counterparts.  The Church must provide women with the freedom, training and opportunities to excel in this common mission. But, quite often the Church does not. Many churches and mission agencies still hold to a pro-male bias in training, leadership development and ministry opportunities. We must not muzzle or stifle half of the Body of Christ. We need the full participation of both men and women to complete world evangelization.

Based on what Scripture teaches, the Church should be known as the one place in every society where women are protected, respected and empowered to express their God-given gifts for the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom. Unfortunately, many women see the Church as a place of limited opportunities and ongoing prejudice and disrespect.

Sadly, all too often the Church simply reflects the beliefs of the surrounding culture. Rather than impacting culture with the truth of God’s word as Jesus did, the Church often compromises with culture until little difference can be seen between the Church and the world around it. Raaj Mondol states the problem clearly in his article starting on page 34, “The church in India can play a significant role in stopping this tide of violence by sharing a gospel message that accords equal value to women for being created in God’s image and redeemed by Christ to become co-heirs of God’s kingdom. This indeed would have been 'good news' to millions of 'missing women' in our country, but sadly the church has largely failed to proclaim and demonstrate this good news.”

By its very nature the Church should be a counter cultural institution that critiques every culture by its very presence. As people submit their lives to the rule and reign of Jesus Christ, renew their minds by the washing of the Word and seek to obey all that Jesus has commanded us, then Jesus followers will stand out as shining lights in a dark world.

William Carey gave us a model for Christian activism when he went to India in 1792 to proclaim the gospel and confronted the cultural practice of Sati or Widow Burning. This is where a woman either voluntarily or by force is burned alive on her husband’s funeral pyre or commits suicide in some other way. Carey worked for years to abolish it. It was banned provincially in 1829 and nationally in 1861.

It is time for the Church to stand up for the inherent value of women as taught in Scripture. It is time for the Church to provide women with equal opportunities to express their God given talents and gifts. It is long past time to end the slaughter of baby girls.

A New Global Coalition of Movement Leaders is Born: The 24:14 Coalition

Please do not miss reading Steve Smith’s and Stan Park’s latest Kingdom Kernels column starting on page 39. Steve and Stan are making a major announcement introducing a new global coalition of movement leaders called 24:14, named after Mat. 24:14. This new coalition represents the coming together of many networks and coalitions of movement catalysts with the singular goal of initiating Church-Planting Movements in every unreached people and region by the year 2025. Our own Dr. Steve Smith, the regular contributor to the Kingdom Kernels column in MF for the last six years, is the co-leader of this new global coalition alongside Stan Parks. We will have much more on this exciting new global effort in upcoming issues of MF. But for now, read this latest column and get excited. God is on the move!

This is an article from the September-October 2017 issue: Gendercide

From a Question to a Calling

Our Journey to End Gendercide in India

From a Question to a Calling

In January 2009, my husband Brad and I were living in Chennai, India where I was working as an attorney for an international human rights organization. Throughout our previous year there, friends visited on short-term mission trips and told us that while in remote villages of South India, they learned that baby girls were being killed. That was difficult for us to fathom. We thought—how in this day and age could baby girls be killed without public outrage? Why had we not heard more about this?

So, Brad and some friends of ours journeyed south to explore the prevalence of this practice. When he returned, Brad and I sat across from each other at our little table in our apartment. On a warm January day, under the humming of the overhead fan, he shared with me what he saw and what was ultimately life-changing for us both.

Brad described that in many villages he saw boys running and playing, but rarely little girls. In one village, he detailed how friendly and open the villagers were with him. They were almost unashamed in telling him that in their village, the boys outnumbered the girls eight-to-one (8-1), and that the midwife killed baby girls when they were born. They pointed to an elderly grandmother and said, “That’s the ‘babykiller.’”

Both men and women told him that no one wanted daughters. Daughters were liabilities. Daughters required a dowry when they married. Daughters cost too much. Sons took care of you when you were old. Sons provided for you. Sons brought their wives to care for you. He learned that daughters were murdered simply because they were girls.

Brad remembered feeling dumbfounded, and then he noticed a young woman who was holding a newborn baby girl. Wondering how this baby survived, he was introduced to the young mother. She explained that she was the 12th daughter born to her parents. In desperate efforts to have a son, her mother became pregnant, had a baby girl, and the parents killed their daughter shortly after birth. Again, they got pregnant, had a baby girl, and murdered their daughter. Eleven times, the mother delivered a daughter, and 11 times, the baby was murdered. Now, at the age of 21, this 12th daughter, now a young woman, had delivered her own baby girl and kept her.

As Brad relayed this story to me, tears welled up in my eyes. I was overwhelmed with the reality that little girls were routinely murdered, with impunity. Deeply impacted by this terrible and universal injustice, Brad and I resolved that day to do what we could to save the lives of little girls in India. Throughout that year, we studied the issue extensively and met many Indians who were working to combat gendercide, but who needed their capacity increased. At the end of the year, we moved back to the States and formalized steps to start Invisible Girl Project (IGP). In 2011, we founded IGP as a not-for-profit organization.

IGP’s sole mission is to end female gendercide (the systematic killing of girls and women) in India. We raise global awareness concerning the loss of female lives in India, because more people around the world must learn of this evil. But, we believe that the discriminatory mindset against females that has existed for thousands of years must change from within the culture. So, we also work with indigenous organizations to rescue and care for vulnerable girls, educate them, and teach them their inherent value. We use social workers to counsel families and teach them that girls are valuable, not burdens. In addition, we seek justice for mothers who are pressured to abort or kill their daughters, understanding that the public justice system in India must work to save girls’ lives. Our mission is consistent with both India’s national campaign introduced by Prime Minister Modi called “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao,” meaning, “Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child,” as well as the Supreme Court of India’s directives to address the declining sex ratio of girls in India. Invisible Girl Project is the only international, secular, non-profit organization addressing gendercide in this manner.

Through our partners’ work, over 700 girls have been saved and hundreds of mothers have been empowered to protect their daughters. On a recent trip to India, I met one of these mothers, named Shanti.[1] She was dressed in a beautiful green sari, sitting in the humid office of one of IGP’s partners when she shared her story with me. Over two years ago, she became pregnant. She and her husband were excited that they would soon become parents. But, shortly thereafter, her husband and his parents began pressuring her to have an ultrasound to determine whether she was pregnant with a boy. These ultrasounds are illegal in India, but often ultrasound technicians are bribed monetarily into revealing the sex of the child.

Although they were poor—living on less than $2/day, they were able to scrape together enough money to pay for the ultrasound. When the technician told her, “I am so sorry,” she knew she was having a girl, and her husband’s pressure to abort their daughter began. Consistently verbally abused and berated by her husband and his parents for being pregnant with a girl, Shanti succumbed and had an illegal abortion.[2]

Months later, Shanti and her husband conceived again. This time, women in her village noticed her belly beginning to swell. They informed IGP’s partner that Shanti was pregnant and in jeopardy. This partner works in the villages with families that are high-risk for killing their daughters, offering care to pregnant women, and providing social workers to counsel families on the value of girls.

IGP’s social workers offered Shanti prenatal care and assistance that she welcomed. When she feared her husband, she called. When her husband tried to coerce her to have another ultrasound, our social workers helped her to refuse. And, when her husband intimidated her, telling her he would kill the baby if she gave birth to a girl, our social workers continued to strengthen and uplift her.

Ultimately, Shanti gave birth to a healthy girl. She was overjoyed to have a baby daughter. But when her baby was just a couple of weeks old, late one night, her husband and his mother, quietly took the baby from Shanti’s side, and sold the baby girl to people in a neighboring state. When Shanti realized what happened, she immediately called our social workers seeking help. Threatened with prosecution, Shanti’s husband and his mother began searching for the baby. Through our partner’s help, Shanti’s baby girl was miraculously found and returned to her.

As Shanti and I sat together in that warm office in India, she held tightly to her baby girl. As tears streamed down her face, her deep brown eyes conveyed both the trauma she suffered and gratitude. I held her hands in mine, and she smiled.

Shanti’s baby girl is no longer in jeopardy. Through IGP’s Child Sponsorship Program, she will live with Shanti and will be given food, a savings account, and an education. Shanti will also be able to take a “cow loan” from our partner so she can sell the milk and earn income to care for her daughter. Our social workers and women’s self-help groups in the villages will also continue to support Shanti.

Shanti’s story is one of hundreds where IGP’s partners have intervened to help rescue a vulnerable little girl and empower a mother, no matter their religion or background. We will continue to methodically and comprehensively teach families the inherent value of girls. We will continue to pursue justice to deter gendercide. And, we believe that the culture can change.

God calls His believers to “do justice.”[3] At IGP, we believe “doing justice” includes saving girls' lives and saying that we will no longer tolerate the atrocity of female gendercide in India. Every little girl is created in God’s image. Every life is valuable. Every saved life encourages us further to pursue this mission.

Years ago, short-term missionaries told my husband and me about the babies they learned were killed in South Indian villages. Those missionaries stirred our hearts to begin our journey to fight the evil of female gendercide. With God’s calling, Invisible Girl Project began and will continue to work tirelessly to end gendercide in India, as we are led. I pray today that your heart will be stirred and that you ask how the Lord has called you to “do justice” in this fight to end gendercide.



[1] Pseudonym.

[2] Sex-determination ultrasounds and sex-selective abortions are illegal in India (Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act).

[3] Mic. 6:8

This is an article from the September-October 2017 issue: Gendercide

Where did all the girls go?

Gendercide and What the Good News Has to Say About It

Where did all the girls go?

Around the world, families face great pressure to have a son. Sons mean honor and prosperity; daughters are a financial and social liability. Desperate families respond with desperate measures and try to “select” for a son by killing or aborting daughters. Every year millions of daughters are strangled, suffocated, drowned, lethally neglected, or aborted simply because her family wanted a boy and not a girl. This is called gendercide.

Because of gendercide, girls are disappearing at an alarming rate. In 2005, demographer Christophe Guilmoto estimated that Asia was currently missing 163 million women and girls from their population due to gendercide.[1] Gendercide has continued since then, and kept growing. The United Nations puts their estimate at closer to 200 million women.[2] In a single generation, more women have gone “missing” from Asia due to gendercide than all the girls and women alive in the United States.

When I first encountered these issues, my heart broke. I grieved for the lives lost. I grieved for the mothers and fathers who faced such immense pressure that they felt compelled to discard their child. I grieved for the stories I heard, for the mother who declared that for her daughter it was “better for her to die” than to live in the situations of abuse and hardship her mother had faced, for the mother that strangled and buried seven daughters.

Gendercide is rooted in a belief that a girl offers little to her family in terms of social or financial benefit, but a boy offers much more. I grieved at the thought of measuring the worth of a human life in financial and social status.

But I believe the gospel can indeed be good news to families and communities facing gendercide. This isn’t about asking people to pray a prayer and “convert.” Nor is it just about rescuing unwanted girls. It’s about a transformation of individuals and families to embrace their kingdom identity as people loved by God and called to love others. For me, the understanding of good news has come to rest heavily on the idea that humans are made in the image of God. (See “The Image of God: A Dignifying Invitation.”) Each person has value because he or she is created, known and loved by God.

The good news is that you matter. You are made in the image of God, which means you have worth and dignity that is sacred and eternal. Your life is not disposable. Your value is not conditional on your status, your wealth or your gender. It cannot be tarnished.

The good news is that you can know God. God is not a faraway deity who has no interest in you. He knows you and wants you to know Him. This is a radically different understanding of God from religious traditions where the gods pursue their own ends and have little concern for humans. But God cares so much about being known that He sent Jesus to show us who God is and how much He cares about us.

The good news is that others also have worth and dignity. When we come to understand our own place before God, we can extend the same grace to others. This transforms the way we treat one another, including our own families and children.

The good news is that your salvation is not your own work. God made the first move towards us. This is not a matter of struggling to please a flippant god or trying to be good enough. God declared that we are created, known and loved. He loved us first. This is why we have the gall to hope that God will enter into our brokenness to redeem us.

We can believe with confidence that God cares for these girls and their families, and that it is within His power to shine His light into the darkness that is gendercide. So let’s dive in and get a better understanding of what’s happening. Here are some of the basics.

How does this happen?

These girls have been eliminated primarily through sex-selective abortion specifically targeted at terminating a female fetus in hopes of later conceiving a male. Families with less access to ultrasound and abortion may also kill a newborn daughter, or simply withhold life essentials such as food and medical care. In both India and China, there are laws against finding out the sex of a fetus, aborting because of the fetus’s sex, and killing a child. However, the practices continue with little resistance. A girl is killed or aborted every 16 seconds, simply because she is a girl.[3]

How do we know how many women are “missing” due to gendercide?

The prevalence of gendercide is measured by the male to female sex ratio. A sex ratio reports how many males there are compared to how many females in a certain age group (often ages 0-6) in a certain area. If there is no gendercide, the natural number of males and females would be about even. The presence of many more boys than girls indicates the practice of gendercide.

Some areas report dramatically skewed sex ratios. For example, the sex ratio of the 0-6 age range in the Indian state of Punjab is 846 girls per 1,000 boys.[4] Another example, China’s sex ratio for children 0-5 years old stood at 810 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2005, so we know that many of those girls have been eliminated from the population.[5]

Although the sex ratio is the primary measure of gendercide, other types of evidence can also contribute to our understanding. For example, a study in Delhi found “that out of 8,000 cases, 7,999 aborted fetuses were female; another Bombay study indicated that of 1,000 cases, 97 percent were female.”[6]

Where is this happening?

India and China account for the majority of the missing women (See “A Case Study from India”). Vietnam, Georgia, Armenia, Albania and Azerbaijan also have dramatically skewed child sex ratios.[7] It is important to keep in mind, however, that the sex ratio can vary greatly depending on the area of the country. Although gendercide is not practiced exclusively by one particular religious block, the majority of communities that practice gendercide are among unreached people groups.

Why is it happening?

Families desire sons for a multitude of cultural, religious, and economic reasons and will go to great lengths to ensure that their offspring are male. Gendercide thrives in patriarchal societies that have traditionally valued men over women. Sons bring honor to a family while girls bring shame and economic burden. Sons carry on the family lineage and are able to inherit any wealth or business the family might own. Among Hindus, it is the eldest son that lights the funeral pyre at his father’s funeral so that his soul can move into the afterlife. In India, daughters are seen as a financial burden due to the cultural tradition of paying a dowry to the groom’s family at the marriage of a daughter. Although exchanging dowry is technically illegal, it continues in a modernized version and can be up to ten times a family’s annual income.

Moreover, spending money on a daughter’s education is seen as investment with no return as she will most likely marry and then she and her children will belong to another family. It is also likely upon marriage that a woman will no longer work, even if she previously held a job. Both Indian and Chinese parents worry that without a son, they will have no one to care for them in their old age. Therefore a son is financial security for aging parents. Sons are an asset, daughters a liability.

There is a widespread belief that gendercide is naturally decreasing as education and modernization spread, but the evidence shows otherwise. Son preference is as old as time, but three developments in recent decades have exacerbated gendercide. The first is technological expansion, which has made ultrasound tests and abortions cheap and accessible. The second is a demographic shift to smaller family sizes, making families more likely to take measures to ensure that their first or second child is a son. The third development is government policy that limits family size and encourages abortion as a tool for family planning. (See “Tackling Gendercide and the Two-Child Policy.") Although it is illegal in China and India to find out the sex of a fetus or get a sex-selective abortion, these regulations are rarely enforced. (See “Gendercide in India: What’s making a difference?” for more on how governments and NGOs can decrease gendercide.)

What are the consequences?

The consequences of a population missing millions of women and girls are large and far-reaching. Due to the lack of females in certain communities, many men cannot find eligible women to marry. These men are known as bare branches.[8] It is estimated by the year 2020 that approximately 15% of young adult men in China and India will be bare branches. To meet the demand, women are trafficked to become wives of men who cannot find a bride locally. Men are paying large sums to obtain a wife. As age appropriate women become scarce, the market turns to child brides to fill the gap. Essentially, marriage becomes commoditized as women are bought and sold as a supply and demand mentality overtakes entire populations. The elimination and abuse of women has terrible consequences not only for women, but also for men, families, and communities (See “The Ripple Effect”).

Conclusion

I dream of a world where women are given a chance to exist, their innate value is respected, and they are able to fully contribute to their families, communities, and world. I believe this world would be better for all of us, and that the Church has something unique to offer in bringing it about. I lead an organization[9] whose vision is for the restoration of families and communities where girls can flourish and gendercide is eradicated.[10] But this is only possible because we believe that God gave intrinsic worth to each life, regardless of gender.

Never before have I been so compelled by the understanding that humans bear the image of God. This is what gives each of us worth and dignity. This is why we treat others with worth and dignity. And this is why we have the courage to hope that the God of the universe will stoop down low to whisper His love in our ear. But how heart breaking it would be to live without knowing that you have intrinsic value! That value will not tarnish or fade. It is not dependent on social status or finances or being born female. If you've never heard this before, it is indeed good news.



[1] Guilmoto, Christophe. 2012. Sex Imbalances at Birth: Current Trends, Consequences and Policy Implications. Edited by UNFPA Thailand. Bangkok, Thailand: UNFPA Asia and the Pacific Regional Office.

[2] A. Diamantopoulou, 4 May 2000. Speech at the conference Violence against Women: Zero Tolerance, http://www.eurowrc.org/13.institutions/1.ec/ec-en/05.ec_en.htm found. via: Vlachova, Marie and Biason, Lea, Eds. (2004). Women in an Insecure World: Violence Against Women – Facts, Figures and Analysis. Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces.http://www.unicef.org/emerg/files/women_insecure_world.pdf.

[3] Hudson, Valerie M. and den Boer, Andrea M. 2005. Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population. MIT Press. Page 112-113.

[4] 2011 India Census. Gender Composition of the Population. Available from http://www censu.sindia. gov. in/2011-prov-results/data_files/india/Final_PPT_2011_chapter5. pdf.

[5] Zhen, Guo, Monica Das Gupta, and Li Shuzhuo. 2013. "Missing Girls" in China and India: Trends and Policy Impacts. Maryland Population Research Center.

[6] Hudson, Valerie M. and den Boer, Andrea M. 2005. Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population. MIT Press. Page 111.

[7] CIA World Fact Book 2013. Available from https://www cia. .gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/.

[8] Hudson, Valerie M. and den Boer, Andrea M. 2004. ‘Bare Branches’ and Danger in Asia. Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24761-2004Jul2.html

.

[10] Give Her Life’s core motivation is to follow Jesus’ example of servanthood and love for all people, families, and nations. We embrace opportunities to serve and partner with people regardless of religion.

 

This is an article from the September-October 2017 issue: Gendercide

Tackling Gendercide and the Two-Child Policy in China

Tackling Gendercide and the Two-Child Policy in China

The following is from an interview conducted with Reggie Littlejohn on May 4, 2017.

MF: Gendercide happens in many places, but you specifically focus on China. What are some of the factors that are unique to China?

RL: Yes, China is not the only place where gendercide happens. But there are things that are unique to China. The main one is the coercive population control. For decades, there’s been the One-Child Policy. Now China has modified its policy from a One-Child Policy to a Two-Child Policy, but the way the Chinese government announced that was very misleading. They stated that they had "abandoned" the One-Child Policy. The mainstream media really picked up on that word, and now people think that all coercive population control in China is over, and that's not true. They just switched it from a One-Child Policy to a Two-Child Policy.

So that now every couple in China is allowed to have two children. What does that mean? That means that the entire infrastructure of surveillance and coercion are still there. Women are still having quarterly pregnancy checks to make sure that they're not illegally pregnant. They can still require a waiting period between the first child and the second child. And if you get pregnant during the waiting period, you can still be subject to forced abortion. Children can still be forcibly aborted. We had some cases that came out of China last year, 2016, where women were subject to forced abortion of third children. So coercion is continuing under the Two-Child Policy.

So you say, "What's unique to China that causes genocide?" Well, when you have a coercive low birth limit—if you're only allowed to have one child, many people want to have a boy. So they will selectively abort or abandon a girl. Under the Two-Child Policy, what demographers have found is that people are willing to let nature take its course on the first child because if you have a girl, you can always try for a boy on the second child. But the family is much more likely to select for a boy on the second child if the first child was a girl. So second daughters are still very much at risk because people perceive the second child as their last chance to have a boy.

MF: You’re the president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF). What is the mission of WRWF, and why do you think it’s important?

RL: We are leading the movement to end forced abortion and sex-selective abortion in China, and it's important because these are the biggest women's rights issues in the world. For example, in the United States, we've had about 58 million abortions since the Roe versus Wade decision. Whereas in China, the Chinese Communist Party has boasted that they have prevented 400 million lives, mostly through abortions. That number, 400 million, is the entire population of the United States and Canada combined. So this is absolutely the biggest life issue in the world.

And it’s the biggest women's rights issue in the world because these abortions are not a woman’s choice. The Chinese government didn't release a statistic on how many of these abortions were forced. But they said that these abortions were a result of the One-Child Policy, which, to me, implies that they would not have happened other than the policy. And if they would not have happened except for the policy, then that means that they were forced. Because to me, anytime a woman has to have an abortion because of a government policy, then that's a forced abortion. If she wants the baby and she has to abort it because of a government policy, that's a forced abortion. So this is a huge women's rights issue—the biggest life issue and it's the biggest women's rights issue in the world today. We are leading the movement to end these things.

In terms of sex-selective abortion, according to one UN statistic, there are up to 200 million women and girls missing in the world today because of the sex-selective abortion of baby girls. That number, 200 million, is greater than all of the casualties of all of the wars of the 20th century. Most times, these women do not want to selectively abort their baby because she's a girl. They're pressured by their husbands and their in-laws. So, again, this is a huge women's rights issue.

MF: How does WRWF engage with these issues?

RL: We engage with these issues in two ways. First, we have an international advocacy campaign. And I have testified personally in U.S. congressional hearings eight times, the State Department a dozen times, and multiple times at parliaments in European countries. China's government denies the existence of forced abortion, but we document it and present the evidence. So we're not the favorites of the Chinese Communist Party. When I began this work in 2009, people did not even believe that China was still forcibly aborting women. People believed the Chinese propaganda machine, which said that all the abortions were voluntary. So the first thing that WRWF had to do was convince the world that this is still happening. And then, of course, we've been calling for it to end and we've had some success in that. The European Parliament and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women have both issued statements condemning coercive population control. And the European Parliament actually passed a resolution naming China and citing a case called Feng Jianmei. She is a woman who was arrested and forcibly aborted at seven months in 2012. So that's what we do for international advocacy.

The other thing that we do is that we have a Save a Girl campaign. We have boots on the ground inside of China to save the lives of individual girls from sex-selective abortion or abandonment. We have connections through our network where through which we learn of a woman who is pregnant with a girl or had just given birth to a girl and is either planning to abort her or abandon her under pressure from her in-laws because she's a girl. We will actually go to her door and say, "Please don't abort. Please don't abandon your baby because she's a girl. She's a precious daughter. And we will give you a monthly stipend for a year to empower you to keep your daughter." And we have saved more than 200 baby girls with this program. These women don’t want to abort and abandon their daughters. They're being pressured. Again, there's a strong connection between sex-selective abortion and forced abortion.

One of my favorite stories was of a woman who was pregnant, and her mother-in-law was really pressuring her to have an ultrasound to find out if it was a girl. These selective abortions are usually late-term abortions because you have to wait until you're far enough along to see the gender of a child by ultrasound. Plus these women really drag their feet on having the ultrasound because they know that if it's a girl, they're going to get pressured to abort her. So this woman waited until, I believe, she was eight months pregnant to have this ultrasound. She found out that not only was she carrying one girl, but she was carrying twin girls. So the pressure became really intense to abort because she would be using up her entire quota in one pregnancy, and they would both be girls. And we were able to go to her door and say, "Please don't abort your baby girls. Girls are as good as boys. And we'll give you two monthly stipends for a year to help you support your daughters." And we were able to save those twin girls in that way.

MF: Do you believe sex selection should be of concern to the American church? And if so, are there any action steps that you can recommend?

RL: This should absolutely be of concern to the American church because if you're a believer, then you've got to care about whatever God cares about. God cares about the whole world. God cares just as much about Chinese mothers and babies as he does about American mothers and babies.

And the Chinese women can't do anything about this because if you stand up against the Chinese Communist Party and say this is wrong, then you end up like the blind activist Chen Guangcheng. He was jailed and tortured and his family has been terribly persecuted because he took up a stand against the One-Child Policy. So the Bible says, "Have nothing to do with evil deeds of darkness but rather, expose them (Eph 5:11)." That's a command. It's not a suggestion. And so now that we know about this, we have a responsibility to do something about it.

If people want to help us save babies in China, they can go on my website, www.womensrightswithoutfrontiers.org. This is a way for somebody to reach their arm from their kitchen table in America all the way to the door of a woman in China and help her save her daughter.

 


 

Learn more or support WRWF:
Women’s Rights Without Frontiers
www.womesrightswithoutfrontiers.org

Save the Girl Campaign
http://womensrightswithoutfrontiers.org/index.php?nav=end-gendercide-and-forced-abortion

Learn more about forced abortion
http://www.womensrightswithoutfrontiers.org/?nav=stop-forced-abortion

This is an article from the September-October 2017 issue: Gendercide

The Beginning of the End?

The Launch of 24:14

The Beginning of the End?

After months of fighting for survival in the Battle of Britain and finally prevailing, the British people heard these fateful words from Winston Churchill. “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Four years later, as Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, the situation was no longer the end of the beginning. It was now the beginning of the end. The war was not over, but the end was in sight, and everyone knew it.

In the U.S., in the years leading up to D-Day, every man, woman and child was involved sacrificially in some way. If they were not fighting on the front line, they supported the war effort in other ways, perhaps in a re-tooled factory to produce items for the war. Children collected dimes each week to buy war bonds. Everything was rationed.

Anticipation of D-Day was palpable and everyone lived wisely and sacrificially in light of that day.

So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. (Ps. 90:12, NASB)

When the invasion was announced on the radio on June 6, 1944, millions of Americans stopped what they were doing and prayed. Business shut down; schools recessed; traffic stopped.

One business took out a full-page ad the next day in a local newspaper that read, “Today is a fitting day to ask ourselves, ‘Am I doing enough?’ If I met a man who was there, could I look him squarely in the face and say, ‘I did my share’?” D-Day wasn’t the end of the war; it was just the beginning of the end.

In the greatest mission ever given, the Great Commission, D-Day is in sight. Anticipation of it is growing among leaders in movements around the world.

In a recent global survey of very fruitful mission leaders, we asked one question: What is God doing uniquely in our generation? The answers were eerily similar: God is calling us to finish the task of engaging every unreached place through movements and, most added, with a deadline that creates urgency. D-Day.

We should listen very carefully when God speaks the same thing to people who do not know each other.

Over the last few months sixty-plus mission representatives from around the world have gathered in two unadvertised 24:14 Summits in Britain and the Middle East. Each of these men and women leads organizations or networks sold out to two priorities:

Finishing the task of reaching every unreached people group and place.

Doing so through movements of multiplying disciples, churches and leaders.

We wrestled with the question: “What would it cost us to pray and work together to start movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2030 or even 2025?” To our collective ethos, we were adding a third element: to do so by a deadline.

As we prayerfully met, we could taste the possible culmination of what every generation has hoped for—the completion of Matthew 24:14 and perhaps the return of Christ.

And this good news of the King’s reign will be heralded throughout the whole world as a sacrificial witness to every people group, and then the end will come.

(Matt. 24:14; author’s translation)

2030 felt too far off for many of us. Instead the seeds of a global coalition emerged to pray and work together to start kingdom movement engagements in every unreached people and place by the end of 2025.

Eight years. One 20-something recently said: “Eight years? I can do anything for Jesus for eight years!”

We pray this is the final push to fulfill Jesus’ mandate and invite believers from every country to join in this effort—sacrificing, rationing, battling, praying—to make it the beginning of the end. We can do anything in His power for eight years.

Why take this path?

The numbers don’t lie.

The last 30 years there have seen significant vision-casting and sacrificial efforts to bring the gospel to the whole world. Yet despite these efforts, the number of non-Christians in the world has risen from 3.2 billion in 1985 to 5 billion today. The number of those without access to the gospel (unevangelized) has risen from 1.84 billion people in 2000 to 2.13 billion people in 2017.1

Global researchers share with our 24:14 that although engagement is up, effectiveness is down. Though we have increased engagement of the unreached people groups (UPGs) of the world, our strategies to reach them have largely not been effective. Engagement alone is not the answer. We are losing ground.

But the Holy Spirit is doing something today of a magnitude perhaps without precedent. During the last 20 years, the number of CPMs has greatly proliferated globally. In those places, kingdom growth is often greatly outstripping the population growth.

Biblical Acts-like movements are spreading around the world. The instructions Jesus gave His disciples continue to bear fruit. Places we had labeled “too hard” before are now proving themselves to be “harvest fields.” From the beginning, Jesus taught us to pray for this:

Our Father in heaven,

Cause people to worship Your name on earth as in heaven!

Cause Your kingly reign to come on earth as in heaven!

Cause Your will to be done on earth

as in heaven!

(Mt. 6:9-10; author’s translation)

The numbers don’t lie: wherever the global church refuses to adopt kingdom movement approaches, we are losing ground. To change the kingdom equation, we must catalyze Church-Planting Movements by the Spirit of God.

The Three Distinctives of 24:14

Called by the verse that inspires us, 24:14 is a global coalition praying and working together to start kingdom movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025.

Within this are three distinctives:

  1. REACH the UNREACHED: In line with Matthew 24:14, bringing the gospel of the kingdom to every unreached people and place.
  2. THROUGH CPMs: Fully reaching them through biblical kingdom movements of multiplying disciples, churches, leaders and movements.
  3. WITH URGENCY BY 2025: Doing so with a wartime urgency by the end of 2025 in the power of the Spirit, no matter what it costs us.
  • 24:14 is not an organization; it is a movement.
  • 24:14 is not the whole mission community; it is a sub-set. We celebrate and honor all the other mission efforts going on and will seek to synergize with them.
  • 24:14 is not a Western initiative; it is a global coalition.
  • 24:14 is not committed to a particular method; it is committed to biblical Church Planting Movement principles that are expressed in different methodologies in different contexts.
  • 24:14 is not an exclusive community but a movement open to all Bible-believing disciples willing to collaborate on the three distinctives.
  • 24:14 is not a replacement for previous movements and organizations; it is a natural next step to global finishing the task and church multiplication initiatives.

We pray that 24:14 will be the final lap of the race so many others before us have faithfully run.

Distinctive #1: Sold out to finishing the task of REACHING every unreached people group and place.

The number of unengaged unreached people groups (UUPGs) and places has dropped dramatically in recent years. This fact could give us the false sense that the job of the Great Commission is done. But the vision of Matt. 24:14 and Rev. 7:9 is a number that no one can count from every tongue, tribe, people and nation. Engagement was an important first step, but engagement was never the goal; reaching them was.

Though the number of unengaged people groups has dropped below 3,000, the number that are not engaged effectively is far higher. With an estimate of  7,000 UPGs and 1,800 unreached cities, the global church must effectively engage 8,800+ people groups and places.

Perhaps 2,300 of these are engaged with effective CPM strategies. That means that 6,500 unreached people groups and places, though many are “engaged,” still need an effective CPM strategy with an on-the-ground team. In some ways, the job before us is far greater than we anticipated. To fulfill Matthew 24:14, we must count the right numbers: 6,500 of them. Each of them needs movements of multiplying disciples and churches.

Distinctive #2: Reaching them through MOVEMENTS of multiplying disciples and churches.

God has given us strategies to keep up with population growth. The Scripture lays out clear paths for how disciples of Jesus can cooperate with the Spirit to see “Book of Acts” movements of God emerge.

CPMs are not a recent phenomenon. They have happened throughout history beyond the Acts period (e.g. Patrick of Ireland, the Moravian movement, the Wesleyan movement, the growth of the church among the Nagas of NE India).

But movements are now proliferating globally.  Of the total movement engagements reported, 593 are considered bonafide CPMs (4+ generations in multiple streams) – with over 95% in the unreached world. The 593 CPMs represent 49.1 million believers in 2.8 million churches.

After careful analysis of some very sensitive data, we are confident in projecting this approximate growth of CPMs.

To make the chart, a movement had to have at least four separate streams of new disciples and new churches multiplying past the 4th generation consistently in a relatively short period of time.

The number of movements is greatly increasing. In hundreds of other places, effective CPM engagements are in place, and it may just be a matter of time before they move into the CPM category and register on this chart.

This points to a very important lesson: persistent, faith-filled, sacrificial efforts in CPM strategies are bearing fruit as time goes by. Such commitments take time. There is always a time lag from engaging a group with a CPM strategy until a movement emerges. Organizations that commit to CPM strategies for a few years and then opt for “the next new trend in missions” will fulfill their own perceptions that CPMs are unattainable.

With a 20+ year track record bearing exponential fruit, CPM is not a passing fad but a recovery of timeless biblical principles. Movement strategies are not easy and are often outside our previous ministry experience. Bearing fruit is costly, but let us press on!

Distinctive #3: Collaborating with URGENCY that a CPM strategy will be in place among all unreached peoples and places by Dec. 31, 2025.

To change our modus operandi, we need a new spirit of urgency. 24:14 is committed to starting kingdom movements in every unreached people with a wartime urgency by 2025 in the power of the Spirit, no matter what it costs us. The Church has lived with a peacetime mindset for too long. Gone is the urgency of a wartime mentality.

But we can recover a wartime mindset for the kingdom much as was done in the physical realm in World War II.

Engaging every one of the 8,800 unreached population segments with an effective kingdom movement strategy in the next eight years is impossible. Perhaps that indicates it is from the God of the impossible.

Though CPMs are proliferating, disciples in movements still only represent 2% of the unevangelized world. Lostness must drive us to live differently. Even eight years (2025) is too long for many—the number of those who die without hearing the gospel one time: 16 million per year, 43,000 per day, 1,800 per hour, 30 every minute, 1 every 2 seconds.

Liberating those trapped without the gospel will take an unprecedented effort by the global church. What price are we willing to pay to see 30% of the world without the gospel become 0%? Will we live in light of D-Day?

Kicking hard for the final lap of the Great Commission race will call us to sacrifice more than we ever have as a global church. We can only do so in the power of the Spirit. May we let our attempts match the majesty of the God we serve!

December 31, 2025 is the not the end of the Great Commission. But perhaps it is the beginning of the end. D-Day.

In the coming months, global 24:14 conferences will convene around the world to enable the global church to more effectively join this movement. Pathways are already developing to enable any surrendered disciple of Jesus to learn how to multiply disciples at home and in an unreached context.

Though the last lap is costly, we are committed to doing it together. Will you run the next eight years with us? We can do anything for eight years.

Someone must run the last lap. Why not us? What better way to honor all the faithful saints who have gotten us to this point? Will you join this effort? Go to 2414now.net.

[For more information about how to get involved individually, as a team, a church, an organization or a network, go to 2414now.net. To learn more about the spirit of sacrifice needed to reach 2025, see Steve’s two recent based-on-real-life novels: No Place Left Hastening and Rebirth at SteveSmithBooks.com]


TESTIMONIALS:

What Church and Mission Leaders Are Saying About 24:14

“This was the most focused ‘band of brothers’ willing to rise together to ignite Kingdom movements among every people at all cost.” —Mary Ho, All Nations

“It is good to worship and fellowship together among our own brothers who are in the same line doing movement work. I am not alone. There are 500 other movements. That was exciting.” —Kumar Pillai, Movement Leader - No Place Left South Asia

“My heart’s been stirred again to realize that we can see every person on planet Earth hear about Jesus, have a chance to plant a church, and change the world in our lifetime. Everybody pulling together with one heart and one mind can see God do what He promised would happen. Won’t you join us this incredible journey as we go on to fulfill Matthew 24:14 in our lifetime?” —Jimmy Seibert, Senior Pastor, Antioch Community Church and President of AMI, & author

“To be in a room with men and women who suffer well to reach the lost has given me strength and motivation to continue.” —Worker in Iran

“Urgency found a friend in the 24:14 summits!” —Kevin Greeson, Global Gates and author

“It’s possible to finish the remaining task with collaboration and networking.” —Aila Tasse, Lifeway Mission, East Africa CPM network,

“Bringing together those with experience and expertise in starting movements with those who share a desire to see them start in their location is immensely exciting. Collaborating must be the way forward.” —A brother in the Arabian Peninsula

“It was an exuberantly wonderful experience to be together with men and women at 2414 who are committed to completing the Great Commission in this generation.” — JV Muku, Leader of the largest modern CPM

“The missions community seems to me to have come to a place where we are ready to take on the giant. Not in terms of talk, but in our commitment to work together for His Name’s sake.” —B Kumar, Co-chair, SEALINK (Southeast Asia Unreached Peoples Network)

“The 24:14 gatherings came at the perfect time. There has been no better atmosphere than the present for collaboration towards a shared vision to see Kingdom movements everywhere matched with the faith and urgency to do something about it. I believe 24:14 provides a catalyst for existing networks like Vision 5:9 to more effectively accomplish our mission.” —John Becker, Vision 5:9 and AIM

This is an article from the September-October 2017 issue: Gendercide

A Hand-out, Hand up, or Hand Across?

A Hand-out, Hand up, or Hand Across?

The saying “a hand up, not a handout,” has been popularized over the last decade. The phrase was created to move people away from the trend of giving handouts and charity in chronic poverty situations, which often leaves people in the same condition and even makes it worse at times. A hand up refers to methods of helping people to help themselves by giving them the life skills, tools, experiences, and resources to be self-sufficient. In other words, a person, agency or church extends their hand (resources) to help the less fortunate get up on their feet and progress forward.

But when it comes to all things global missions, I wonder if there is another manner and approach we should add to this list: a hand across. What do I mean by “a hand across,” and why do I suggest this approach in spreading the gospel and making disciples?

Giving handouts and giving a hand up still put people in a kind of unequal relationship. The one who gives the handout or the one who gives the hand up still comes across as the superior one, the expert, the foreign aid person, and the fixer. In these cases, it is obvious who are considered the vulnerable, poor, and weak ones and who are the smart, wealthy, and strong ones.

Based on my experience, I would conclude that most missionaries conduct themselves as the experts, the fixers, and the solution jumpers in their host-countries. Most missionaries don’t seem to need much from those they live among; they tend to find solutions and meet their needs elsewhere (other missionaries, their organizations, professional services, hired-hands, etc.)

But I wonder if there is room for, and a need for, a hand-across approach to missions. In this case, the cross-cultural worker and the local people view each other as mutual friends and as people who truly need each other. No one seems on top or more superior or less needful of the others. In this respect, the cross-cultural servant would need to avoid being the money bags or the powerhouse, but rather bring their one or two slices of bread to the loaf, so to speak. They would contribute, but not over contribute or outshine those around them. They would gift and share, but it would be less of a transactional culture (exchange based on money) and more about sharing  ideas, labor, and friendship, and fanning into flame that which is already there.  

There are several distinct benefits to sharing the gospel and making disciples from this context, posture, and approach:

  • Authenticity is a product of mutual servanthood, sharing, and true interdependence. Authenticity is really difficult to come by when money and the perception of power come into the relationship.
  • Others say, “I can do this!”
  • Sharing is NOT reduced to the monetary, financial transactions, and professionalism, but rather allows for voluntary gifting of shared work, time, ideas, relationships, and resources as a lifestyle.
  • The cross-cultural Christian worker will have to rely on their gifts of creativity, of building relationships, listening, and of being present, which is quite persuasive in making disciples. 
  • It protects against passing on a worldview of consumerism and materialism.
  • It creates a relational and communal atmosphere of sharing evident in the gospels and in the book of Acts.

My aim is not to criticize handouts and a hand up, but rather to invite dialogue and a bit of dreaming about an approach to missions that is under highlighted, a hand across . . . where monetary transactions are not dominant, but where being needed by others and needing others are more on an equal plane.

No one seems to be teaching Westerners how to do missions from this degree of vulnerability…to have to trust in those around them on a regular basis.

A hand-across approach allows the gospel, church, and the Kingdom of God to spring up from the culture and the natural resources of the people. In this manner, local resources are maximized and forms contextualized.

This is an article from the September-October 2017 issue: Gendercide

Gendercide in India

What is Making a Difference?

Gendercide in India

Introduction

Gendercide, or the elimination of daughters from society, has been occurring in India for centuries. Because of modern technology, people are now able to use sex selective abortion as a method to ensure sons, and not daughters, are born. The child sex ratio (CSR), or the amount of girls there are to the amount of boys in a society, is the best way to track how many daughters are missing. A normal CSR is about 100 girls to every 107 boys. In parts of India, it is upwards to 121 boys for every 100 girls. Hudson et al.[1] asserts, “…the death toll among Indian women as a result of female infanticide and sex-selective abortion from 1980 to the present is almost forty times the death toll from all of India’s wars since and including its bloody struggle for independence.” It is estimated that there are 43.3 million missing girls in India in 2010.[2] See Figure I for a map of India and the child sex ratio at birth in each state.

    
     Figure 1 Child Sex Ratio for Ages 0-6 from India 2011 Census.[3]

Results of the Study

The very abnormal CSR is how we know there is a problem in India. But has anything been done and by whom? The main players in the fight against gendercide are the government of India and civil society groups (nonprofits/NGOs). It is difficult to measure if their efforts have made a difference, but the best way is to look at the CSR before and after an initiative has taken place. Then we see if the CSR got better during their efforts, showing if there was less or more gendercide. I did a study to look at this. The goal of the study was to see if the initiatives were making a difference and I did that by collecting many initiatives and looking at the CSR before and after each initiative.

This study collected 112 separate interventions, or efforts, that have occurred in India. The CSR is measured before and after each initiative, indicating if things got better or worse over the duration of the efforts made. The results show that 51% of the initiatives did have a better child sex ratio after initiatives occurred. The most important finding was that states in India that had a lot of initiatives occurring had a better change in the CSR than states that only had a few initiatives. See Figure II for data results.

    

Best Practices

From these findings, there were several strategies in the initiatives that look like they might be lessening the occurrence of gendercide. These “best practices” are ways that government and civil society groups can make a difference. These best practices — strict, serious enforcement by the government, multi-pronged approach, women’s leadership in policy formation and implementation, in-context methods, and partnership with authority entities — are present in the vast majority of the interventions that had a better CSR after implementation.

Government Best Practices

1. Strict, serious enforcement by the government

The first strategy is serious government efforts to combat sex-selective abortion. For example, in 2005, a “Watchdog” group was established consisting of former police chiefs, the health ministry, and the retired director general of police. Their efforts, which included undercover inspections and legal action against abortion clinics, occurred in five different states. In all five states, the CSR was better after intervention.

2. Multi-pronged approach by the government

The second strategy for the government is a multi-pronged approach that combines a variety of methods, groups and organizations into one initiative. This study shows that these combined effort cases, which include the government and local non-government organizations (NGOs) are essential to making a difference. In Haryana, a multi-pronged approach headed by state government has been underway and includes financial assistance to girls and their families, rewards for districts with improved sex ratio, plays, rallies, pledges by citizens and other publicity. In 2005 the CSR was 823 girls to 1000 boys and increased to 903 girls in 2016,[4] showing that the CSR was much better after intervention.

3. Women’s involvement in the leadership, implementation and policy-making of government schemes

The third strategy is women’s involvement in the leadership, implementation and policy-making of government schemes. For example, in Bibipur, Haryana, an all-women panchayat (village-level administrative group) was put into power. They immediately banned sex selective abortions and passed a resolution that those found participating in female sex selective abortion would be charged with murder.[5] Violators of the ban are also socially boycotted. The women then used government monies by investing in intensive campaigns aimed at tackling issues like dowry and gender bias. They have banned DJs and other celebrations at marriages to minimize dowry expenses. Many women were given assistance in pursuing education, empowering them to become more independent.[6]

Civil Society Best Practices

1. Context appropriate methods

The first strategy for grassroots, civil society efforts is context appropriate methods. These specific context appropriate methods are how activists have used language and slogans appropriately, set culturally sensitive goals and addressed correct audiences. These strategies were particularly important in education and media campaigns. In Morena, Madhya Pradesh, the NGO Prayatn has taken great care in creating context appropriate interventions by creating a rapport with the city and its citizens, giving training and education to men and women about women’s legal and reproductive rights, and organizing a cadre of local women activists.[7] During Prayatan’s initiatives, the city of Morena saw a 9% positive change in the CSR.

2. Partnering with local authority entities

The second strategy for civil society groups is partnering with local authority entities. The authority entities, usually local government and religious bodies, hold authoritative sway in many communities, thereby adding soft power to civil society efforts. In one example, several groups (including UNICEF, UNFPA and religious leaders) teamed up to walk 2,000 kilometers across five Indian states.[8] The pilgrimage concluded in the holy city of Amritsar on a religious Sikh holiday. Sikh religious leaders condemned sex selective abortion and threatened that any patrons found to be participating in the practice would be excommunicated. Of the five states visited, four saw a significant positive change in the CSR.         

3. Sponsorship of local Indian NGOs by international NGOs

The third best practice for civil society groups is sponsorship of local Indian NGOs by international NGOs. For example, in Haryana, ActionAid India has sponsored many local groups (including women’s rights groups, academics, and activists) to conduct carnivals, advocacy, education, celebrations of baby girls’ births, etc. During their campaign, Haryana saw a 6.4% positive association with the CSR, showing that the initiative may have made a difference.

Conclusion

In 2008, the Indian Prime Minister declared, “No nation, no society, no community can hold its head high and claim to be part of the civilized world if it condones the practice of discrimination against one half of humanity represented by women”.[9] The Prime Minister then outlined specific government campaigns to end sex selective abortion in several states throughout India. This study shows that some of this work by government and civil society groups may be making a difference in a few states in India. There is, however, a generous amount of work, policy implementation, and grassroots effort that need to be made before a balanced child sex ratio is achieved.



[1] Hudson, V. M., Ballif-Spanvill, B., Caprioli, M., & Emmett, C. F. (2014). Sex & world peace. New York: Columbia University Press.

[2] Bongaarts, J., & Guilmoto, C. Z. (2015). How many more missing women? Excess female mortality and prenatal sex selection, 1970-2050. Population and Development Review, 41(2), 241–269. doi:10.1111/j.1728-4457.2015.00046.x.

[3] Census of India: Census data online. (2011). Retrieved February 10, 2017, from Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, censusindia.gov.in/2011-common/censusdataonline.html.

[4] Thakur, M. (2016, January 22). Beti Bachao delivers gains in Haryana, but gaps remain. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from http://www.livemint.com/Politics/p6CEyeHkxxZckdx7RTiWON/Beti-Bachao-delivers-gains-in-Haryana-but-gaps-remain.html

.

[5] Sandhu, K. (2015, June 12). Haryana village initiates contest for ‘best selfie with daughters’: Beti Bachao, Selfie Banao. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/win-win-contest-is-rage-in-haryana-village-beti-bachao-selfie-banao/.

[6] Siwach, S. (2016, July 14). Activists to adopt 2 Haryana villages having worst sex ratio - Times of India. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Activists-to-adopt-2-Haryana-villages-having-worst-sex-ratio/articleshow/46362986.cms.

[7] Gender Equality & Social Justice. (2014). Retrieved July 21, 2016, from Prayatn, http://www.prayatn.org/gesj.html

.

[8] Adorna, C. (2005). UNICEF endorses multi-faith campaign against female foeticide. Retrieved July 19, 2016, from UNICEF India, unicef.in/PressReleases/265/UNICEF-endorses-multifaith-campaign-against-female-foeticide.

[9] Srinivasan, S., & Bedi, A. S. (2011). Ensuring Daughter Survival in Tamil Nadu, India. Oxford Development Studies, 39(3), 253-283. doi:10.1080/13600818.2011.594500.

This is an article from the September-October 2017 issue: Gendercide

The Image of God

An Inclusive Invitation

The Image of God

Gendercide is based on the ideology that female life is less valuable than male life—that women are somehow less human than men. However, this way of thinking should be foreign to the Christian paradigm due to the concept of the image of God. Problematically, Christian thinking has been more influenced by the cultural dogmas of the day than the divinely revealed truths about the value of both women and men. Such influence can be traced via the question: What does it mean to be human?

Those who answered this question privileged with whatever attribute or embodiment they personally possessed—and since these thinkers were male—being male became the criterion for humanness, and consequently, value. Aristotle played an especially significant role in propagating a male-centric value system by ascribing male natures with superior powers, particularly of reason, over female natures. For him, a woman was a “mutilated male” requiring her subservience to men.[1] This dominant paradigm, that women have different natures, and thus, lower value, influenced Christian theologians such as Tertullian, Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, Augustine, and Aquinas—thereby passing on an ideological inheritance which devalues women systemically and individually.[2]

Fortunately, this distortion of value is baseless. To discern the answer to what it means to be human, we will begin in the Genesis account (1:26-28). Here one finds God communicating intent: “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion." And then he acted on this intent: “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Finally, God blesses the creation of this act by saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over…every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Significantly, appeal to this same concept appears in Genesis 5:1-2, even after sin has entered the scene, and the explicit inclusion of female as well as male persons is also reiterated.[3] Later, in the final use of this explicit concept in the Old Testament, the image and likeness of God provides the justification for prohibiting murder (9:6).[4]

What do these texts tell us? First, humanity must be understood in relation to God: “in the image of God.” We will return to the preposition “in” below, but the statement that humanity is expressly related to God communicates creatureliness and dependence of identity on an external source. Second, while humans share creatureliness with the rest of the world, this unique identity of being “in the image of God” seems to be the causal reason for being given dominion over the world.[5] Thus, there is a special kind of representation of God’s presence in the world via humanity.[6] This dominion is given expressly to both male and female without qualifier. Third, such representation is also meant to be expanded as God charges them to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” Here, maleness and femaleness is a necessary prerequisite for humanity to reproduce and extend into the world. Yet, the capacity to reproduce is held in common with the rest of the created world and should not be understood as the content of the image of God. Fourth, when read in conjunction with Genesis 5:1-2 and 9:6, the image of God does not seem to be lost even though humanity sinned. Fifth, being in the image of God is not located in any given attribute or embodiment but includes the entire person.

A quick contextual backdrop for how Eden was understood will help underscore the dignity of both male and female—specifically, that it was understood to be a part of the cosmic temple.[7] This was a sacred space where God dwelt with the created world and the created world responded in worship to God. As such, male and female functioned as priests in this context. Such a reading finds support since the same verb for “walking” (הָלַךְ) that God is doing in the Garden is also used for the presence of God walking in the tabernacle (Lev. 26:12, Deut. 23:15, 2 Sam. 7:6-7). Further, the duties given to humanity in Genesis 2:15 were the same duties given to the Levites evidenced by the use of “to work” (עָבְדָ֖) and “to keep/guard” (שָׁמְרָֽ) the sanctuary.[8] Finally, the Israelite cosmology, as reflected in their tabernacle construction, understood the Holy of Holies to be the heavenly throneroom, the Holy Place to include the heavens, and the outer court to include the habitable world—of which, Eden was a part. Israel was intended, as a people, to spread God’s presence in the world as a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:5-6). Such a national vocation was analogous to the original vocation of all humanity. Thus, while the content of the image of God is not expressly stated in the Old Testament, the consequence of being in the image of God seems to involve the expansion of God’s reign in all the earth—a task equally given to both female and male persons.

In contrasting complement to the Old Testament, the New Testament provides explicit content to the concept of the image and likeness of God. This content is now a person: Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Temple—the presence of God—and the true image. No longer do any prepositions stand before “image of God,” (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15, equiv. Heb. 1:3), since it is in his image that humanity was patterned.[9] Through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, all humanity is invited into becoming this image, which is the end for which it was already intended (Col. 3:10; Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:49; 2 Cor. 3:18). This invitation is enacted by the Holy Spirit and enables becoming the image of God as a member of the royal-priesthood and as vessels of the divine presence. Consequently, such an invitation is both individual and corporate, for the Epistles declare that the individual is the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19), the church is the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16, Eph. 2:21), and a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 5:10). Such a vocation is not only open to women as well as men, but requires women as well as men to partner with the Spirit of Christ in expanding the presence of God in all the earth through “making disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).



[1] Aristotle, On the Generation of Animals; Politics.

[2] For a history of this misinterpretation’s devastation see Kilner, John F. 2015 Dignity and Destiny: Humanity in the Image of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

 

[3] Genesis 5:3 uses “image” and “likeness” but in the context of a human-human relation instead of God-human relation, and space does not allow for explication.

[4] James 3:9 functions like Genesis 9:6 in speaking of humanity in general and using a preposition.

[5] Dominion needs to be rightly contextualized as ruling as God would rule, which involves stewarding the world toward creaturely flourishing. See F. Davis, Ellen F. 2009 Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Also, for a structural argument regarding the causative relationship between being in the image and having dominion, see Gentry, Peter J. and Stephen J. Wellum, 2012 Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 189.

[6] Middleton argues convincingly for image as royal representative, though he does conflate the constitution of being in the image with the consequence of being in the image of God. Middleton, Richard J. 2005 Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press; 2014 A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[7] Alexander, Desmond T. From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction To The Pentateuch; Beale, Gregory K. The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God; Walton, John H. The Lost World of Genesis One. See especially Alexander regarding the priestly association, as well as Gentry and Wellum, cited above.

[8] Some might argue that these functions only applied to the man in the garden, since the woman was not yet created in this account of the creation sequence. However, the fact that the woman was not specifically addressed does not mean that she was not included in this charge. If this priestly language is gender-exclusive, then one must also conclude that the command not to eat from the tree of good and evil was only required of the man since the woman was not given this prohibition directly. Also, given the argument that Eden is a sacred space, the woman should not have been allowed into the domain in which God walked unless she was a priest as well. That she was also a priest may be additionally supported by Genesis 3:21 in which God makes garments of skin for the man and the woman, using the same vocabulary as the priestly donning of clothing (Exod. 28:41; 29:8; 40:14; Lev. 8:13). See Wenham, Gordon J. 2014 “Sanctuary Symbolism in the Garden of Eden Story,” in Cult and Cosmos: Tilting toward a Temple-Centered Theology, Morales, Michael L. ed., Biblical Tools and Studies, volume 18, Leuven: Peeters, 163-164.

[9] The fact that Jesus is identified with the image, and is the original after which all humanity is patterned since the Son pre-existed all creation, is a possible reason that “in” and “according to” are consistently used in talking about humans and the image but then they drop out when speaking of the Son of God as the image.

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

A Word for the Global Church from Africa

A Word for the Global Church from Africa

Last year, while in Thailand, I was particularly discouraged. I had a cold, had just flown 18 hours and was worn down. After adjusting, I began to do what I do at all conferences: connect with people—Often with people I know at some depth. But this time, there was a new brother. He had grown up in an African country and been sent as a global worker to a large country in Asia. He had been there for 3-4 years—it was his 2nd cross-cultural field of service, and likely his 5th or 6th language—having grown up in Africa.

Since the event was focused on his Asian country, I noticed this man talking with the others in their language with great expression. They listened carefully with interest! I asked another leader how his language was coming along. They said that while his vocabulary was basic, his grammar and pronunciation was excellent. He could tell stories in a way that engaged people. Those who spoke the language loved to listen to him and were honored that he spoke so well. And, that was true back in his own country—where he works with students near a university campus. Beyond language skills, I’ve found out that he is a man of insight with a passion to tell of Christ and his love.

Since then, I’ve tracked with him. He is now back in Africa for a home assignment and a break. But he is sharing vision and his burden for the lost with the church back home. While there are more workers going out from Africa, it is rare to find them in Asia, so I’m sure he is in great demand as a speaker—if for no other reason than it is interesting to hear him.

But, in a prayer email he sent several weeks ago, he expressed great frustration with the level of vision from some of the churches in one area back in his home country. One night he couldn’t sleep. So he woke a friend and went to the graves of workers who had pioneered the gospel and established churches in the area where he was. He wrote his burden and prayer — which reminded me of the way I and others who mobilize feel at times. Here is one paragraph from his plea:[1]

Today erecting Church buildings is the top agenda of almost every local church in [this people group]. Erecting [an] office building is the top agenda. Erecting … [a] Memorial Building is the top agenda.But, the gospel, outreach, and sending missionaries to the unreached people groups is not the top agenda. They misunderstand me, they say [I am] against the church building.No, that is wrong! I believe we need more infrastructures in [my country].But any project that kills the gospel [or] that consumes all the resources, I oppose it in the name of Jesus! When they came up with a mega church design, I thought they would finish that and turn their attention to the gospel work, but it did not happen. They came up with primary and secondary school project.I still hoped that when they finish that, they would turn their attention to the gospel work but it did not happen—they came up with building shops and guesthouse and so on.Now I realize that there is no end for this.It is just killing the gospel in a very subtle way.

We all know that churches can build and focus on the spread of the gospel. But since the church is people, the physical things like buildings can also be a huge distraction. They certainly are not required by the Scripture.

As I pondered how to share his reflections, I got another email from him. He shared that while one meeting with the top church leaders was delayed, they do have a vision for the unreached. He has been invited to share with many churches and gatherings in June within various church groups. They want to send ten missionaries a year from these churches — 50 in the next five years.

I have gained great encouragement from this brother and his wife. Would you pray with me for them and the others like them who come from very humble means but are wholly committed to the task and uniquely gifted to contribute in ways that someone like me
never could.

Perhaps you have a similar story? If so, post your story in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.


[1] I have his permission, but I have removed names and places for security and to give no offense. Remember, English is not his first language.

 

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

Staying Home

Cultural Bridging in a Time of Crisis

Staying Home

When Berty, short for Bartolomej, and I met for coffee, it was clear that he was under a lot of stress. Severe stomach cramps, sleeplessness, and anemia had taken its toll on him physically and spiritually. The time he took out of his busy work schedule to sit and chat over coffee was one less hour he had to finish a construction job he and several of his co-workers were busily trying to complete. I knew the history of how Berty used to operate a large, successful construction firm. He had several men who worked for him, a good reputation, more work than he could handle and enough income that he and his young family were able to live very comfortably. Once, when we were talking about whether it was better to carry your wallet in your front or rear pocket Berty said, “I carry mine in my hand. That way I am not burdened by money if my wallet is in my back pocket nor led by money if it is in my front pocket.” He laughed, knowing there were times in his life that his desire for money and possessions was his highest motivation. Before coming to faith in Christ, Berty talked about living “in the world.”  Now, as a deacon in his church, his desire is to raise each of his his four children to love the Lord and to live in such a way that his life is a testimony of who he is in Christ. It is not always easy.

Along with majority populations from Central and Eastern Europe, tens of thousands from minority Roma communities have relocated to Western Europe in search of jobs, housing, and education. Many of these intra-European migrants are evangelical Christians.  From within my own tradition, the maxim of Johann Oncken, the father of continental European Baptists', was, “Every Baptist a missionary.” His motto became the guiding principle as Baptists migrated across Europe in search of opportunity. The history of Europe is a story of shifting borders, internally displaced persons and almost constant periods of adjustment as diverse populations wax and wane across the continent.  The Romani peoples, whose own story of migration is still not fully known, likely have more stories to tell and more skills to offer of how to cope in today’s world than any other group.

When Berty’s business collapsed and he struggled to earn enough money to live from week-to-week without having to pawn his wedding band, there was strong temptation to move from Slovakia and join others from his extended family in places like Germany, England or Belgium.  Berty and his family regularly took their vacations to visit family scattered across Western Europe. Their relatives would ask, “Why don’t you move here?  You can make more money and life is better here.” Even though Berty lived in Belgium for a while and made very good money, he was certain that it was not God’s will for him to emigrate from Slovakia. “Better to be poor at home with Jesus than rich somewhere without Him,” Berty tells me. Tragic stories of the disintegration of families after they left home to migrate to the West are all too common.  Children lose their more conservative social mores in the West. Families still have struggles, but in strange lands they have no family or social network on whom they can depend. They often end up much worse than if they were back home. 

I have spoken to pastors of churches across Slovakia and Czechia (Czech Republic) who tell similar stories of personal and congregational heartbreak. Ministers and ministries invest years into the lives of people seeing them come to faith in Christ, mature as believers and even become leaders in the church only to lose them to migration. While it is true that “every Christian migrant is a potential missionary,” reimagining a small local church in eastern Slovakia or northern Czechia as a missionary-sending congregation is too hard to comprehend.[1] Still, the Holy Spirit is doing this very thing in congregations across Central and Eastern Europe.  Migrants are playing the roles of missionaries as they take their Christian faith into countries of Western Europe.

As we continued with our coffee, Berty shared another story. By word of mouth through some of his Christian friends, Berty was hired by a woman to do some work on her home.  “She was not a Christian, but she hired me because of my reputation for good work.  She did not like Cigány.” [2]

He told about how she would stand at her window and watch as he and his employees worked.  Once they went to ask if she had a small grill they could use to cook their lunch instead of having to go into town.  “As long as you don’t break it” she quipped. They asked to borrow a guitar so they could sing together as they waited for lunch to cook.  “Make sure you give it back.  I am watching you.” 

Berty, like others from ethnic or economic minorities, is very aware of when he is being watched. The high-context communication styles of the Romani peoples are able to read authenticity or prejudice, gullibility or concern in the body language, arrangement of chairs in a room, or tone of voice.  They are masters of non-verbal communication. The homeowner did not need to say “I am watching you” because Berty and his crew already felt her stare. 

Cultural bridging is a skill immigrants must learn as they adjust to life in their new context.  Bridging is the ability to engage another culture by use of language and knowledge of customs or other social mores. Bridging is important in the development of social currency or capital.  Transformational development of impoverished communities emphasizes that in order to advance, moving within and between socio-economic classes requires knowledge of unwritten cultural standards. This is where cultural bridging becomes crucial for how migrant communities function in their new context. Within Romani studies, the ability to adapt culturally is broadly discussed. Most of the Romani peoples in Central and Eastern Europe are in settled communities.  Still, adaptation to life as perpetual migrants, as they move from their cultures to engage the majority cultures in which they live, accentuates their mastery of cultural bridging.  

When emigrating from Slovakia or Czechia to the West, deft and seemingly innate abilities at cultural bridging are how Roma have adapted to life. Bridging is a tool many Romani Christians utilize when sharing their faith. In the case of the Christian, sharing one’s faith cross-culturally can be filled with uncertainty. Am I communicating clearly the gospel message in a way free from my own cultural baggage? Can others see Jesus clearly in my life?

After the reconstruction was completed and Berty had received payment, the homeowner said she had something else to say to him.  “You know that I did not like Cigány. But as I watched you all read the Bible and pray each morning before you began to work, I heard how you would sing praise songs about Jesus as you played on my guitar; I saw you work together to do a good job on my house and all the while encouraged each other in your faith. I want you to know that because of you I began to read my Bible and I have accepted Jesus too.”

Berty shakes his head as he finishes his coffee and his story. “This is why I am still here. God has a plan for me here to witness for Him in what I do. And like my family that has moved away, we are trying to do what God has called us to do. We live in such a way that other people will want to know Jesus because of our life.” 

Life for the Roma in Eastern Slovakia is often marked by high unemployment and little hope for finding a regular job. Often facing discrimination in education and employment, many find the freedom of emigrating to the West a welcomed way out of their difficult contexts. And despite the truth that in the West there are more opportunities, there are also new challenges to life in their new contexts. The challenge for churches left behind by emigrants is a loss of leaders, discouragement and even feelings of betrayal as members leave. And though the growth of Romani churches throughout Western Europe is due in large part to how well churches in Central and Eastern Europe have discipled their members, separation from the constant encouragement and relational closeness of their home congregations creates challenges for the new mission churches. 

Berty’s story illustrates how one Roma family from Eastern Slovakia chose to remain at home as they struggle to eke out a living while giving witness to Jesus Christ through their lifestyles.  The skills of cultural bridging are not only how the Romani adapt to new contexts, but also their method of evangelism.



[1] Hanciles, Jehu J. Beyond Christendom: Globalization, African Migration and the Transformation of the West. (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2008).

 

[2]Cigány - an exonym for the Romani people common throughout central and eastern Europe.  It is translated into English as “Gypsy.”

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

Brothers and Sisters, Please Stop “Training” *

Brothers and Sisters, Please Stop “Training” *

Fifteen years ago, “Church Planting Movement” (CPM) was a relatively unheard of–and even widely questioned or opposed–concept. Today, many different types of ministries and efforts are being labeled “CPM.”

Definition of CPM

Over the last 20 years, as we have come to better understand this God-phenomenon called Church Planting Movement, the definition has become clearer.

A Church Planting Movement can be expected to be in place when four or more separate streams of new disciples and new churches are multiplying past the 4th generation in a relatively short time (months or years, not decades). Generation 1 is counted as new churches composed of new believers, not pre-existing believers. Generally, a CPM does not emerge until there are at least 200 new churches and they are led indigenously by believers that have arisen from the harvest.

Our goal is sustained CPMs 1) in which the vision is owned and led by biblically qualified leaders who have arisen from the harvest, 2) which have stood the test of time and persecution, 3) which number well past a thousand churches and 4) which are cascading into other people groups and regions. Generations often become impossible to number, but 15, 20 or 25 generations of new churches are not uncommon.

The heart of CPM praxis is pouring our lives into local believers in a way that helps them become 1) whole-hearted followers of Jesus (life transformation and devotion to Jesus) and 2) fishers of men (Mark 1:17). In this process, many become catalysts of movements. The two common avenues of finding local believers to invest in and train are 1) winning them to Christ through evangelism and 2) casting vision to existing believers to pursue Father’s heart for movements, and then to be trained and walk this road together.

Training Disciples For a CPM

The primary term that has arisen to indicate discipling that results in equipping believers to do the work of service (Eph. 4:11-12) is “training.” In the early days of movements, the word “training” was chosen to differentiate it from misconceptions associated with other great terms:

Teaching—Teaching the Word of God is essential. “Training” emphasizes that the teaching should result in heart obedience in the listener (doers of the Word, not hearers only).

Discipling—Discipling often conveys the idea of receiving for personal spiritual growth. “Training” emphasizes that a disciple not only receives but is also equipped to pass on what he or she receives.

Training describes a process of regular (usually weekly) life-on-life teaching and discipling that results in the disciples 1) growing in Christlikeness through genuine life transformation (“following Jesus”) and 2) being equipped, encouraged and held mutually accountable to make disciples of others who can repeat the discipling/training process (“fishing for men”). Training places emphasis on developing an environment and structure to multiply discipleship at every generation.

Training has always been meant to equip disciples in a way that can result in true life transformation and movements of disciple-making that spread throughout a city, region or people group.

Training was never meant to refer to pop-in-pop-out conferences or events. Training “events” can change minds and hearts but do not usually change hands and feet (lifestyle). Only regular life-on-life training changes lifestyle.

Unfortunately, today many people refer to pop-in-pop-out training events as “training.” In a best-case scenario, we pop in and have amazing God-encountering conferences. God convicts the group of wrong thinking and practice. He moves the hearts of listeners to cooperate with Him to see movements of disciple-making emerge. In less ideal scenarios, we pop in and pass on CPM principles, but there is no real heart change.

Regardless of what occurs in such pop-in/pop-out conferences, a disconnect emerges IF there is little (if any) weekly follow-up. When there is no regular, life-on-life mentoring, coaching, modeling and discipling, the hopes of disciples raised in the training events become dashed.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Prov. 13:12, ESV)

We give hope but defer fulfillment through lack of regular follow-up. Disillusionment sets in. We have inoculated them against kingdom movements.

If this is what someone means by training, I say, “Brothers and sisters, stop training!” Remember: events can change hearts but only frequent discipleship training can change steps. If all we do are training events, how can we help disciples through the problems and discouragement that inevitably follow when they try to change their lifestyles and encounter spiritual opposition?

The goal of our training is 1) life transformation (including church formation) and 2) movements that can spread through a region. The ideal situation is for us to cast vision deeply (which can be through an event) but then have 12-24 months to deeply invest in groups of local believers through weekly/bi-weekly discipleship training that walks them through the stages of a movement.

Let’s look at two scenarios of movements in Acts that rang out through the Roman world and see how Paul trained them: a 3-week model and a 3-year model.

3-Week Training Model: Thessalonica

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures (Acts 17:1-2, ESV)

It appears that Paul only stayed in Thessalonica for about three weeks before he was chased out by persecution. Even so, something amazing emerged from this launch:

You became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thes. 1:6-10, ESV, emphasis added)

Two characteristics are apparent from Paul’s letter to these dear believers shortly after his departure:

1.  True life transformation – they are an example of faith and radical turning from the old ways

2.  Regional movement – their example and witness has reverberated throughout the region

3-Year Training Model: Ephesus

In Ephesus, on the other hand, Paul built a base of operations in the province of Asia for three years (Acts 20:31).

This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks . . . . And this [the seven sons of Sceva incident] became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.  And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. (Acts 19:10, 17-20, ESV, emphasis added)

The same two characteristics emerge in Ephesus:

1.  True life transformation – deep sins are being rooted from their heart in reverence for the Word of the Lord

2.  Regional movement – everyone in this Roman province of Asia has heard the Word of the Lord


The Training Process that Resulted in Movements

According to Paul, it was the manner of interaction that was the critical factor in these God-movements.

Lifestyle of the 3-Week Training Model

Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thes 1:5-6, ESV, emphasis added)

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thes 2:7-12, ESV, emphasis added)

With just three weeks, Paul took up the role of mother or father, exhorting, encouraging, and charging these new believers day and night. He imparted his very life rather than popping in and popping out. He was an example they could emulate of holy conduct. The Thessalonians had become dear to him and he imparted his life to them. For three weeks, he was all in. He then stayed in contact in the years to come through 1) personal follow-up visits, 2) emissaries, 3) letters and 4) taking Thessalonian believers with him at times (Acts 20:4).

Lifestyle of the 3-Year Training Model

But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, [Paul] withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:9-10, ESV, emphasis added)

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ . . . . Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:18-21, 31-32, ESV, emphasis added)

Whether Paul had three weeks or three years, he conducted his life and ministry in the same manner. The picture of training that emerges here is one in which every day he was training. He did this in an incarnational life-on-life manner, admonishing and teaching with tears. He trained not just in the hall of Tyrannus (public) but house to house. For Paul, training was pouring his life into disciples and commending them to God and His Word.

Implications for Our Training

Training of disciples is essential if movements are going to emerge. But our term “training” must mean what Paul did with his disciples. Training conferences can help us filter for hungry disciples, but only regular, life-on-life training will change lives and impact regions. Paul reasoned in the synagogues (events) to find those who would believe and walk with him in kingdom movements. He then imparted his life, day and night, to those who walked with him.

A goal of every conference should be to identify men and women we (or co-laborers in that region) can regularly pour our lives into in the weeks, months and years to come in the various locations in which we work. Sometimes, we will have only a short time to share our lives, like Paul had in Thessalonica. Sometimes we will have years, like Paul had in Ephesus. But regardless of the length, the hope of our training is to impart our very lives to these disciples and commend them to God who can equip them to be ministers of His grace.

How often must we interact? In some refugee situations, colleagues know they have only a few weeks with new believers, so they meet like this for training every day. In usual situations, colleagues train disciples weekly. In busy urban environments, some colleagues train their disciples every other week and encourage them to start their own training groups on the off weeks. The least frequent I have seen anyone train believers in a way that resulted in life transformation and a Church Planting Movement was once a month. Less frequently than that and it is too difficult to bring real implementation that results in life transformation, healthy church formation and multiplying generations.

So, brothers and sisters, do not stop training events if you are using them to find disciples to invest your life in. But if you believe you can bring real heart change and launch true kingdom movements through training events only, I admonish you to stop training or change your approach.

At the end of the day “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). Such lifestyle training was Paul’s model. Does it sound much different from what Jesus did with His disciples?

 


*In January 1995, John Piper published an article entitled “Brothers, Tell Them Not to Serve God!” in which he admonished readers not to serve God in the wrong way. That article deeply impacted me and this title honors that spirit.

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

Leaving Home

New Pathways in Mission

Leaving Home

I was born in Lom, Bulgaria, a small, ancient town known as Almus during the Roman Empire. In Lom, like many places in Eastern Europe, there is a separation between where the Bulgarians live and the three Roma neighborhoods (mahalas).

I believe the town is very significant because it has more than a century of Evangelical history. The people of Lom claim that it was in this city that the first Roma Baptist Church in the world was registered in the early 1900’s. Because of this history, the Roma people in Lom are “breastfed” with the gospel and honor the Christian way of life. We begin going to church from a very early age because our mothers and grandmothers take us to church every Sunday. From every house in the Roma neighborhood, at least one person in the family, if not the whole family, visits a Sunday service.

Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism among the Roma in Bulgaria spread rapidly after 1989.  A 2008 study estimated that there were over 800 Roma churches and 600 Pentecostal preachers, deacons, and elders. Another estimate puts the number of Pentecostal churchgoers to be 50,000, not including those who identify as just Evangelical.[1]

In 2004, when I was 16, I became curious while watching all the people who would pass my house on the way to the biggest Roma Pentecostal Church in that part of Bulgaria, as it had 400 members. Pastor Ilia Georgiev, a man who taught himself to read using the Bible after his own conversion in 1979, founded this particular church and is still the pastor. In 1993, the people began to build the church with their own hands and money—a process that took 10 years to complete. Despite the deep economic crisis, the church is still supported only by its members.

I went to the church, and immediately the other young people noticed me and became my friends—and that is how everything began for me. In 2005, I received Jesus as my Savior. Soon after that, I started to preach at the youth meetings. In 2006, I attended Bulgarian Presbyterian Reformed College in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital city, for two-and-a-half.  I was also a translator in the church, so I was able to befriend many different preachers and men of God. 

Socio-economic Crisis

One of the biggest challenges for the people in the church is the socio-economic situation and the sub-standard education. In fact, our particular region is the poorest in the entire European Union. Lom’s Bulgarian population has a 50% unemployment rate, a percentage that is even larger among the Roma population. Those who are able to find employment work in the private sector or in a temporary contract paying only 215 Euros ($230) a month. Therefore, for a family to survive in Lom, at least one member of the family needs to work outside of Bulgaria.

In 2007, Bulgaria was accepted into the European Union, and people slowly started to leave to find work. Now in Lom, there are an estimated 7-8,000 Roma left out of 15-17,000 people who used to live there. The Roma mahalas have become like ghost towns—the streets used to be filled with noisy kids playing, but now most of the people who remain are over 50 years old.[2]  

In Bulgaria, the Roma are known as people who do not pay taxes, electricity or water bills. They are thought to be lazy and “live on the backs of the working people.” However, the issues are much more complex than such a stereotyped generalization. It is not because the Roma do not want to pay for utilities, but because they cannot afford it. The money they receive is just enough for food and sometimes for clothes [and only for the kids]. In fact, Bulgaria cannot provide normal life for its people. A 2015 estimate claimed that 2.5 million Bulgarian-born citizens work outside the country, 55% are between 20 and 29.[3]

A New Country

I see the complicated truth more clearly now because more than 100 Roma families from Lom, including my family, live in Germany, in and around Kaiserslautern. There are also others from other parts of Bulgaria: Vidin, Belingrad, and Shumen.  Here we pay taxes, rent, and electricity. It is interesting that the same uneducated and unqualified people that do not have work in Bulgaria find work and success in Germany.

I chose Germany because the country is stable and secure and has a good economy. When I along with others migrated here, we started from zero and began a whole new life. For most of the people, everything is unknown. Most do not know the language. Some of them have never left Bulgaria before so they encounter a lot of hardships—for example, wading through the complicated documents or looking for an apartment to rent.

However, through these difficulties we find success. How? We thank God that the Roma people help each other. Those who speak German help others to find a job or an apartment, or to borrow money. We are trying to integrate into the German culture. We go to language courses so we can learn the language and find better work. The kids are visiting local schools that will provide them with better jobs than their parents currently work.

The second reason I chose Germany was because my sister’s family and some friends of mine were already there. So the risk that I took was far less than for others. The most important thing for me was that in Kaiserslautern, my community from Lom already had a church—every Sunday around 50-70 people worship God. I knew that I would be able to find support and strength to continue and not to quit this new life my family and I have chosen.  And it was just like I had hoped. Everyone encouraged me that things will get better, and to pray and believe. Most of the Roma immigrants would not last without the church as they find spiritual and moral support there.

The Church as the Center in a Migrant Community

There are four churches in different places in Germany made up of Lom immigrants.  Pastor Ilija travels from Lom every other month to visit the churches. The churches are an important center for the Roma immigrant community. The church in Kaiserslautern united us and sustains our lives. Although the church is open for everyone, primarily people from Lom visit it. The church service is conducted in Bulgarian and we sing some songs in the Romani language.  When we come together, we remember from where we started, who we are, and that we have the same roots.

The church in Kaiserslautern keeps focused on its purpose: To preach the gospel for salvation. Young people have surrendered their lives to God. People who were drug addicts have been changed by the power of God. In Bulgaria, there were people that I never imagined would repent. In Germany, however, they find God—or rather, they are found by God. Perhaps this is because in Bulgaria, they could rely on their comfort in the culture and their tightly knit communities. In Germany, they feel more vulnerable and are forced to depend more on God. They begin to pray more and see how God answers their prayers. The church builds the character of young people and gives them direction for their lives, since some of them had only experienced living in the mahala and did not know how to navigate the larger society. We also remind ourselves that in Lom, there are many poor families. Because of this, our German church decided to send some money to Lom for orphans and poor families.

Our church is active in making connections outside of the Lom community as well.  In  2017, we organized a conference in Germany with guest preachers from Bulgaria.  This was a very big event for the Roma immigrants from Lom. At those meetings, Roma came from other parts of Germany. Such conferences strengthen our spirits and give us the power to go on. When we are together, we feel that we are back in Bulgaria. We are also expanding our networks; we have started to work with a church in Wiesbaden that has Roma members from a different part of Bulgaria, and we also work with German Roma friends.    

A Better Future

In conversations that I had with some of the people, they explained that the reason they left Bulgaria was to have a better future for their kids. They want their kids to have opportunities they did not have in Bulgaria. We all hope Bulgaria can eventually succeed to be a place for good living and not just for surviving. We want our educated young people to stay in Bulgaria and not to leave because they do not have the opportunities to succeed. We all want to go back to Bulgaria one day because there is no better place than home.

But in the meantime, God is using this economic crisis for our growth and benefit.  Similar to when Israel came out of Egypt and traveled to the Promised Land, God also wants us to humble ourselves, to obey His words, to learn how to live in a godly way. The circumstances we face require us to trust God every day just like the Israelites did in the desert. Perhaps this is the main reason that so many people who did not repent back in Bulgaria are being transformed in Germany.



[1] Atanasov, Miroslav. “Gypsy Pentecostals: The Growth of the Pentecostal Movement Among the Roma in Bulgaria and Its Revitalization of Their Communities.” (Asbury Theological Seminary, 2008); Slavkova, Magdalena. “Prestige” and Identity Construction Amongst Pentecostal Gypsies in Bulgaria.” In Thurfjell & Marsh eds. Romani Pentecostalism: Gypsies and Charismatic Christianity. (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2014). 

[2] This crisis is noted in other places in rural Bulgaria.  See, for example: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/10545458/Ghost-towns-left-by-Bulgarians-seeking-work-in-UK.html

[3] Data from the National Statistical Institute and the Economics Institute with the Bulgarian Academy of Science. http://www.novinite.com/articles/171684/More+Bulgarians+Working+Abroad+Than+in+Bulgaria

 

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

Cultivating “4th Soil” Disciples in Ourselves and Others

Cultivating “4th Soil” Disciples in Ourselves and Others

The Roma, they are the people of myth, legend and media creations. They are commonly known by the name, Gypsy, given to them by outsiders. Most of us have images in our minds of what “Gypsies” are like even though the vast majority of us have never gotten to know someone who is Romani.  These mental images of “Gypsies,” largely generated by how they have been portrayed to us in books, television and movies, often paint the picture of a very colorful people, but ones who are shady in character. And yet this is the association that many may have of a people they have never met.  How do these mental images or prejudices get in the way of our ability to bring the gospel to them?  This is a major problem in missions, not just for reaching the Roma but also for many peoples and religious blocs. The common preconceived ideas and stereotypes surrounding Muslims are just one example.

The only way to overcome these stereotypes is to confront them with the truth. That is what we are doing with this issue of Mission Frontiers. We are allowing actual Roma people to speak for themselves—to give you a glimpse into the reality of who they are, their struggles, and their passion to make Jesus known among their own people. I hope that after you read this issue, you will come away with a newfound appreciation for the Roma people and how we can reach them more effectively with the gospel.

The Continuous Search for “4th Soil” People

Regardless of what people group we come from or what people we are seeking to reach with the gospel, we must be “4th soil” people who are seeking to discover 4th soil people in others and equip them to go and bear much fruit. A 4th soil person is a reference to Jesus’ Parable of the Sower from Matt. 13 where the seed that fell on good soil produced a crop of 100 fold, some 60 and some 30. Three previous sowings of seed mentioned by Jesus did not fall on good soil and therefore did not bear fruit. Jesus provides an explanation of the parable starting in Matt. 13:19.  

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”(NIV)

Clearly, Jesus wants us to bear fruit in terms of saved souls or disciples made. That is the purpose of teaching the parable. He wants us to understand what can rob us of faith and fruitfulness. First let us think about what are the characteristics of a “4th soil” person.

They Obey the Word

In each of the four soils Jesus puts great emphasis on “the word.” The word is the seed that is being sown in each of the four soils and the response of a person to the word will determine what kind of soil they are. A 4th soil person is one who eagerly receives the word and is faithful and obedient in applying the word to their life. Whatever the word tells them to do, they do it. In many churches there are countless Bible studies where people learn about the word but there is seldom much emphasis on obeying the word, or accountability for doing so. As a result, people remain immature and often succumb to the snares of the first three soils: affliction, persecution, worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of wealth. Knowledge of the word alone must not be our end goal, but rather obedience to what God has called us to do through his word. Only in doing so will we bear the fruit Jesus desires and become 4th soil people.

They Successfully Pass Through Suffering and Persecution

We probably all know of someone who was apparently a believer but when suffering came or God did not answer their prayers as they desired, they turned their back on God and walked away. Whenever suffering or persecution comes into our lives we have the choice of responding like Job’s wife or like Job. We can either “curse God and die” or we can entrust our future and ourselves to God and His loving care. Only 4th soil people endure suffering and remain faithful to God.

They are Not Lovers of Money, but are Generous

This gets to the root of what is truly important to a person. Is it the status, safety and security that someone may think money can provide or do they see money as a tool or resource for the expansion of God’s kingdom? Ralph Winter talked about living a “Wartime Lifestyle” where the focus is on spending what is needed to accomplish the mission, not on what will make our lives most pleasant or comfortable. The American church, perhaps more than most, must beware of the deceitfulness of wealth that Jesus talks about. The great majority of funds collected by the church stays within the church to bless the people of the church, not to reach out to the lost and make disciples, both near and far.

They are Not Consumed With the Cares of the World

It is normal and natural for people to care for their families and to work hard to provide for them. But there is a big difference between that and having the things of this world be the focus of a person’s existence. The goals, priorities, interests and passions of 4th soil people are completely different from those in the church who are not living on mission with God. Those who take seriously Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples of all nations” will live very differently from those “believers” who do not.

They Work to Make Disciples Up to 100 Fold (their maximum potential)

The last word that Jesus sowed into his disciples was a command to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded. If this word is to become fruitful in our lives as 4th soil people, then it must be obeyed.  We can’t just talk about it; we actually need to do it. The majority of people who take the “Great Commission” seriously still just talk about making disciples rather than actually doing it.  Fourth soil people will seek to obey the Great Commission and will seek out the training they need in order to make disciples.

This is a reality check for all of us. If we are not regularly and intentionally seeking to share our faith with others and to make disciples, then we need to ask the Lord if we are producing the fruit that is commensurate with 4th soil people.

4th Soil People Are the Ones Who Will Complete World Evangelization

Providing access to the gospel to every person living within every people will only happen if we foster movements of discipleship within every people. These movements will only take place if average Jesus-followers are equipped to make disciples one generation after another. These equipped disciple makers, by definition, will be 4th soil people because they are obeying the word and they are bearing fruit one generation after another. Our job is to be 4th soil people who seek out other 4th soil people who are eager to be equipped and released as disciple makers in every people, tribe and tongue until God’s promise to Abraham is fulfilled as seen in
Rev. 5:9.

Some categories in this column were inspired by Profile of a 4th Soil Person published by Global Gates.

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

Movements in Mission

Christianity Among the Roma (Gypsies)

Movements in Mission

Although 'Gypsy' may be a more recognizable name, it can also convey a derogatory meaning in some European contexts. Therefore, in general, we use the term 'Roma' in this issue, apart from historical usage or a group who specifically refer to themselves as Gypsy.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a Romani friend’s wedding. Tables laden with food, a brass band playing music for hundreds of people dancing for hours—this was a rich experience of sights, sounds, and tastes like nothing I had ever experienced.  More than that, however, it was also an example of uninhibited celebration, expression of joy in dance, and an extravagant hospitality—all were welcome to the party.  Suddenly, I had a tangible picture of God’s lavish generosity—a God who welcomes and even seeks the uninvited guests, a God who throws a feast to welcome prodigals home, and a God who “rejoices over us with shouts of joy”(Zephaniah 3:17).   

Over the last six years, as I traveled throughout Eastern Europe forming relationships and learning about the Roma in numerous contexts, I experienced many transformative moments.  My understanding of God expanded, my conception of His mission shifted, and certain elements of Roma culture and Roma Christianity deeply challenged me.  In Eastern Europe, where many Roma communities remain marginalized from the majority society, I have also been burdened and grieved by seeing the cyclic effects of deep poverty and hearing stories of trauma, rejection, and pain. Jesus Christ, as Christian Roma leaders assert, is the only hope; indeed many Roma testimonies manifest the truth of Ephesians 3:18,19–grasping the immensity, richness, and vastness of Christ’s love liberates and restores Roma identity. As a beloved son and daughter of God, being filled "to the measure of all the fullness of God" is the key that releases God’s power to transform, empower, and equip for mission. 

Who Are the Roma?

To understand why this is such a profound witness to the power of the gospel, it is necessary to understand both the current situation of the Roma and the story of Roma Christianity. In Europe, historical accounts first noted the Roma in the 12th century. Although during the Middle Ages, their trades were often portrayed as a valuable contribution to societies, by the 16th century, various areas of Central and Eastern Europe were developing negative attitudes and policies toward them.[1] In the centuries that followed, ruling powers attempted to fit them into the constraints of society, through mechanisms including assimilation, forced sedenterization, slavery, and extermination during World War II.  Despite a shift in state policies and increased international attention over the last couple of decades, particularly in Eastern Europe, many Roma communities are in a deeper state of poverty than the majority populations and, additionally , they faced discriminatory attitudes reinforcing their marginalization.

However, it is a mistake to think of the Roma as a monolithic group, and the use of different ethnonyms can lead to confusion for those unfamiliar with the heterogeneity of Roma group. For example, there are groups who identify as Roma, Romani, Gypsy, Gitano, Travellers and Sinti. Roma or Romani is used in this article in its broadest sense—to describe groups of people who may speak one of the Romani dialects, may have a shared experience and sense of history, cultural practices, and/or self-identify as Roma, Romani, or Gypsy.

It is also a mistake to think that all 10-12 million Roma  in Europe are poor and marginalized. In fact, there are wealthy Roma groups and individuals, and there are Roma in every layer of society: academics, lawyers, musicians, actors, and politicians.  There are Roma organizations, NGO’s, and political advocacy groups.  There are also Roma churches and Christian movements that have their own Bible schools, training programs, and church praxis. Consequently, it is good practice to approach each community on its own terms, listening to how they self-identify and not making assumptions.  “Who has the right to name us, to tell us who we are?” asked one Roma pastor at a 2016 Roma conference.  

Christianity and the Roma

The Roma in Europe are Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Jehovah Witness, and Muslim. Often, the Christian Church’s attitude mirrored that of society, and there are accounts of the Church refusing baptism and confessions to Roma.[2] In fact, in the past, due to the lack of engagement in religious institutions, some scholars concluded that the Roma were "insincere" in their religious commitment, although current scholars have argued that this was a result of racist and exclusionary attitudes from the Church.[3] The insincerity hypothesis can also be challenged by what has been happening among the Roma for decades. That is, Protestant Christianity has been spreading through Roma communities in Europe, North and South America, and beyond.

One of the most prominent and well-documented catalytic locations of a “Gypsy Revival” began in France in the 1950's when a Manouche family experienced the healing of a family member. Clément Le Cossec, a minister in the Assemblies of God church and a non-Roma, devoted his life to encourage this “Gypsy Awakening” by equipping and training leaders and missionaries. For some this meant learning to read. The movement crossed over to different Roma groups and spread to numerous countries and continents.[4]

In Eastern Europe, the Baptists were active in Bulgaria in the early 20th century, and Pentecostalism began spreading in the 1940’s and 1950’s, with rapid expansion beginning both in Romania and Bulgaria after the fall of Communism. The most internationally well-known Roma revival in Romania took place in the town of Toflea, beginning in the 1990’s and peaking in 2003, with their largest baptism being around 500 people.  Known as Rugul Aprins (Burning Bush), the members who migrated from Toflea for economic reasons started their own churches and the primary pastor reports 10 churches in Romania, 5 in England, 1 in Spain, and 1 in Germany.[5]

For many complex reasons, reliable numbers of Roma populations in Europe are hard to come by, and the same can be said for the number of Roma Christians. However, certain contexts have educated estimates. For example, the number of active Roma Christians is over 200,000 in Spain, over 140,000 in France, tens of thousands in Bulgaria and Romania, and thousands in places like Slovakia and Hungary.[6]

Just as Roma identity and context cannot be understood monolithically, so it is the same with Roma Christianity—more accurately viewed as movements with  just as diverse praxis and theology as you might expect to find in churches of other nations or ethnicities.  There are large, well-established Roma churches and small struggling churches and home groups.  There are Roma churches with missional impulses stretching to the non-Roma, and other churches that focus just on their particular Roma group.

This issue's themed articles are meant to exhibit this heterogeneity. There are both Roma and non-Roma writers, each speaking from a different context and perspective. To help set the framework of the wider picture, these five themes emerge in the articles.

1. The Rapid Growth of Roma Pentecostalism

Roma Pentecostalism is the stream of Christianity growing most rapidly. At its present conversion rates, some scholars suggest that it will be the prime form of Roma religiosity in a few years.[7] At least in Eastern Europe, it is common to hear  testimony of coming to Christ through miracles, healings, dreams and visions.  Some Roma leaders have a sense that the Roma will be key to evangelizing other nations within Europe–that they will bless other nations.

2. Towards Holistic Transformation

Many Roma communities face deep poverty and marginalization from the majority culture, therefore there is an acute need to both understand the complexity of factors which contribute to this and an orientation towards holistic development based on the Roma leaders’ perspective of what needs to change.       

The Roma communities in Croatia in which I serve are certainly not the poorest I have seen, but even so, the issues of a marginalized minority community in a country already facing socio-economic hardship are acute and complicated. One day, I accompanied a woman from my community who was attempting to apply for health insurance. In the space of a few hours, we visited 6 different offices.  This woman cannot read, and I marveled at her adeptness at navigating a system based on the ability to read.  At the same time, I also got a sense of the vulnerability one faces. In our church community, over half the adults in church are functionally illiterate. Many children drop out of school before finishing eighth grade.   All have continual health issues.  Most survive on social help and temporary seasonal labor such as street cleaning.  Not all have electricity or running water.

3. Training and Equipping

With the rapid growth of Roma Christianity, there is an acute need for training and equipping of Roma leaders. Although certainly there are Roma leaders attending Bible schools and universities, as well as some movements which have their own autonomous Bible schools, Roma leaders still express the need for more tools and training. 

In the past, and even now, other churches or missionaries have not deemed the Roma “capable” to lead their own churches.  The Gypsy And Traveller International Evangelical Fellowship (G.A.T.I.E.F.), which grew out of the Gypsy revival in France, has been highly successful in mentoring, training, and sending numerous Roma pastors and missionaries.  They are active in 24 countries in several continents. The current leader, René Zanellato wrote in his 2014 update regarding the “secret” to this success:

The error has been that certain leaders of churches and organizations did not understand and did not trust the work and the capacity of the Holy Spirit to let the Gypsies themselves evangelize the Gypsies. These countries and pastors have been a hindering to the development and to the Revival, wanting to impose to the Gypsies their rules and their non-Gypsy mentality.[8] [sic]

4. Lack of Trust as a Missional Barrier

Attitudes of prejudice or stereotyping, based on longstanding, ingrained images of the Roma, are prominent in the majority populations. However, prejudice can also exist between different Roma groups and from the Roma to the non-Roma (gadje).  I have argued elsewhere that reconciliation must be a key structure of mission and is critical for the holistic transformation of communities.[9] Transformation can only progress so far if relationships between Roma and non-Roma are not healed and renewed.  

5. The narrative matters...and this relates to mission praxis

How we tell stories is critical for shaping attitudes and actions toward Roma communities. Even as  “mission popularity” rises iregarding the Roma, I have become increasingly aware of the images and language used to depict the Roma. This would be a fabulous theme for a future issue on a broader scale--how we, as an evangelizing church, often present a foreign culture/people in our biases, in order to show an evangelism which can be derogatory.

Listening, learning, and asking as an orienting practice for mission are not new insights in 21st century missiology. And yet all too often our mission praxis continues to repeat mistakes made in mission history. As we participate in God’s mission, we must constantly be open to the critique of our motives, strategies, and perspectives.  As Father Greg Boyle concludes: “I discovered that you do not go to the margins to rescue anyone.  But if we go there, everyone finds rescue.”[10]


[1] Crowe, David. A History of the Gypsies of Eastern Europe and Russia. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), xvii, xviii.

 [2] Atanasov, Miroslav. “Gypsy Pentecostals: The Growth of the Pentecostal Movement Among the Roma in Bulgaria and Its Revitalization of Their Communities.” (Asbury Theological Seminary, 2008).  p. 99-101

[3] Acton, Thomas A. “New Religious Movements among Roma, Gypsies and Travellers: Placing Romani Pentecostalism in an Historical and Social Context.” In Thurfjell & Marsh eds. Romani Pentecostalism, (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2014), 27,28

[4] Laurent, Régis. “On the Genesis of Gypsy Pentecostalism in Brittany.” In Thurfjell & Marsh, eds. Romani Pentecostalism, 33, 39.

 [5]  Information accumulated through interviews by author in person with Anuşa Capitanu (Toflea, Romania, July 2015), Ilia Bolmandor (Bucharest, Romania, July 2015), and Ioan Caba (Oradea, Romania, July 2015).

[6] Cantón-Delgado, Manuela. “Gypsy Leadership, Cohesion and Social Memory in the Evangelical Church of Philadelphia.” Social Compass (2017), 5; Gypsy and Traveller International Evangelical Fellowship 2014 Report, Rene Zanellato; Slavkova, Magdalena. “Prestige” and Identity Construction Amongst Pentecostal Gypsies in Bulgaria.” InThurfjell & Marsh eds. Romani Pentecostalism; Podolinska, Tatiana, and Tomaš Hrustič. “Religion as a Path to Change? The Possibilities of Social Inclusion of the Roma in Slovakia.” (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 2010.)

[7] Thurfjell, David, and Adrian Marsh, eds. Romani Pentecostalism, 8.   

[8] G.A.T.I.E.F 2014 Report, Rene Zanellato, [email protected]

[9] Wachsmuth, Melody J. “Roma Christianity in Central and Eastern Europe: Challenges, Opportunities for Mission, Modes of Significance.” In Mission in Central and Eastern Europe: Realities, Perspectives, Trends (Oxford: Regnum, 2017),

[10] Boyle, Greg. “I thought I could save gang members.” The Jesuit Review, March 2017.  http://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/03/28/father-greg-boyle-i-thought-i-could-save-gang-members-i-was-wrong

 

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

Sustainable Mission

Who Pays for the Books?

Sustainable Mission

Sustainable mission is a macro-movement, a way of thinking, a general framework. It encourages missionaries and mission supporters to think carefully about how they are serving in local communities, and to consider methods and models of mission that encourage local sustainability and the empowerment of local believers, rather than developing an unhealthy model of patronage and dependency.

In many ways it is easy to agree with the principles of sustainable mission, but when it comes to the crunch, decisions about day-to-day practical matters needs to be made. This is a story of one such decision.

I’ve been a missionary in Mexico for eight years. I work as part of a para-church movement, providing theological training to pastors and church leaders. But I am also a member of my local church. The youth group at our church has decided to start using the Spanish-language version of a well-known evangelism tool. The program runs for 14 weeks and includes a short booklet of Bible studies, homework material and other readings. Each participant in the program requires a booklet which costs about $4 US. This is not a huge cost for the youth of our church as they are largely from middle or upper-middle class families, but there is a culture of receiving things for free.

So the question that has been raised is, “Who is going to pay for the books?”

The easy answer is that I (as the foreign missionary) will, or at least I will contact an American church who will gladly give the $200 needed to buy the books. A couple of emails, a phone call or two and I would have the money – no problem.

Sounds good. Good resources get into the hands of people who can use them – surely that is our aim? It is a model I’ve seen repeated many times across Latin America. But thinking through some of the principles of sustainable mission allows a few problems to be identified and an alternative model to be developed.

First, if the group receives the material for free, the users lack a “personal investment,” which usually means less motivation to use it. A free resource is more likely to sit on the shelf rather than be used. Instead, if they pay for the material themselves, they are more likely to turn up to the sessions, do the prescribed homework, and therefore receive the benefit.

Second, freely given materials trains the recipients to wait for the next free box (which may come in a month, a year or never). Instead, if they buy the materials themselves, they are in the habit of buying good materials for training, evangelism or edification, and will seek them out.

Third, bringing in free materials from outside undermines local Christian booksellers, authors and publishers here in Mexico who are trying to develop good resources in Spanish. Instead, locals buying local means relationships are developed (see the second point above), businesses are grown and local authors are encouraged to produce locally relevant materials.

So what does the theory of sustainable mission mean for the very practical question of “Who pays for the books?”

It means the local participants do. In fact, even better, the local participants can pay 120% of the cost of the books, to cover the costs of the extra books needed for their non-Christian friends, and to pay for the coffee and cookies that will be offered as part of the training. Then, when the next course runs, they will be in the habit of using their local resources, rather than looking outside.

Finally, this model empowers the local believers to serve each other and their community. It encourages them to see a need and meet that need themselves as members of the body of Christ who have been blessed with gifts and resources to do the good works that God has prepared in advance for them.

 

For more information go to wmausa.org

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

From Prejudice to Love

From Prejudice to Love

I am Bulgarian. I was born and raised in a loving family and had a wonderful childhood. Both of my parents are very well educated with good professions, so getting a good education was the number one priority in our family. I made it into the best kindergarten and schools. In this environment, I communicated with children just like me: white and coming from similar families. I never had any Roma classmates. When I saw beggars down in the center of the town, I always wondered why they were so dirty and begging. I thought that these were low class people and I should not communicate with them.

I had no interaction with Roma people at all until I became a believer. When I accepted Christ at age 17, I saw some of these “different” people in the church sitting among Bulgarians and worshiping God together. At the end of each service, people greeted each other with a kiss and handshake. I did not greet the Roma, because I had a very deep prejudice toward them without even realizing it. Two years went by quickly and I ended up at a university in the big city. The church there had fewer Roma and consequently I felt fine.

In my senior year, I was offered a job as a coordinator of the compassionate ministries at our church. I felt God was clearly leading me toward that and I felt His presence and peace about my decision to take the job. My very first project was at one of the Roma schools in the country. The first time we went there I was unprepared for the interest and love of the students. By the end of our visit they all wanted to come and hug us. That experience completely shocked me. I tried several times to pull myself away and leave the school, but the crowd of children was too “demanding.” That night I had serious turmoil in my heart. I felt convicted for my earlier behavior and realized that I had a serious problem. I asked Jesus for forgiveness and a change of heart. This did not happen suddenly. Month after month I went to the school and met with these children and their families. I started to listen more attentively and learn about their culture. I was invited to family gatherings and my appreciation for their culture and traditions grew with every single event. The love for their families and their hospitality–even to strangers–were things I have not seen anywhere else.

Today, some of my closest friends are Roma. I am a pastor of three Roma churches and still teach at
this Roma school. I can only thank God for His mercy and love and bravely say that everything is possible with God–even changing the depths of our hearts and minds where prejudice and other unrighteous habits are deeply rooted. With Him we can overcome everything!

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

Waiting for Death,  Surprised by an Angel

Signs and Wonders in the Roma Context

Waiting for Death,  Surprised by  an Angel

“I was so sick that I had already begun mourning the fate of my children who would be left without a mother,” remembered Čelebija Kamberović, a 60 year old Roma woman from Leskovac, Serbia. 

Čelebija married as a teenager and by her early twenties she already had three children.  Like most Roma mothers, she was devoted to taking care of them.  Her life consisted of washing, cleaning and cooking for her children, husband, and his parents.  She did not know how to read and write but she knew that she wanted a better life for her children, especially her daughter.  In general, Čelebija’s life could serve as an example of a typical Roma woman’s life.  Men are obliged to earn money while women are responsible for everything else that allows a family to function.  Since Roma girls often marry young, instead of using their youth for schooling, they dedicate themselves to housework and the cares
of motherhood.  

In 1984, when her children were still young, Čelebija fell into a deep depression, and she feared that she would die because of her sickness. 

"Suddenly," she related, "I began to experience periods when my heart would race. I felt that at any moment I could die.  When these attacks would come upon me, I would be completely lost. Every other day I received an injection so that I would calm down.  For days, I closed myself in a room to cry, afraid to die because then my children would be left motherless, without a person who would take care of them."

Her family members recognized her deep depression and her fear of death—and everyone expected that her recovery would only happen by a miracle. 

Because of a woman’s workload, Čelebija was almost never left with free time during the day to socialize with friends with whom she could share her problems.  Her husband was always busy with work.  Therefore, her only option was to cry and to pray to God, although she thought that God existed somewhere far away. 

“One night,” she said,  “After I was crying for a long time and thinking about everything that had happened to me, I fell asleep and had a dream.”

This dream was one of the most striking dreams she has ever had, and therefore she remembered it vividly and with joy: “In the dream, I was sick and on my way to the doctor’s office to go have my blood checked. The doctor would then be able to diagnose me. At the corner close to the doctor’s office, a glowing being appeared all dressed in white. Instantly, I was aware that it was an angel.  He called me by my name and said to stop because he wanted to talk to me. I immediately began to complain to him.”

Elderly Roma in Leskovac say that Roma have always believed that there is one God and one devil. However, this did not mean that Roma knew the real God.  The vast majority of the 8,000-10,000 Roma in Leskovac were Muslims, although they would not go to the mosque and would rarely connect with the imam. They would go talk to the imam only when they had difficulties and were really sick, expecting salvation from their God in the rituals that imams would perform.  In this way, Čelebija addressed her prayers day and night to the unknown God in whom she was seeking salvation. She also wore various amulets that she got from the imam. 

After Čelebija complained to the angel in her dream that she could not find the cure for her sickness anywhere and that even her amulets did not help, the angel told her: “Čelebija, God personally sent me to you in order to tell you that your tears have already come to his throne.”

The angel started to explain to her the way to the Pentecostal Church called the Community of Light in Leskovac. Since she was illiterate and did not know how to read the names of streets, the angel explained to her where she should turn left and right and which building it was on the street. After that, Čelebija woke up. 

Both the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Muslim community had declared the small Community of Light Church to be a sect.  Pentecostals and Evangelicals register as only a tiny percentage in Serbia, a country in which Orthodoxy is the recognized form of Christianity. Islam is also a recognized religious community.  Of the church’s fifteen members, only four were Roma. In the 1980’s, the relationship between Roma and the Serbians in Leskovac was hostile. The Serbians would forbid Roma to walk the main streets of the town and would pick fights. However, the relationships inside the church were different—the Serbians loved the Roma and all considered themselves brothers and sisters in Christ. 

 Čelebija did not have anything to lose, so she directed herself toward the church, remembering the directions from her dream.  “When I entered the church, I found the people kneeling and praying.  Since I wanted to imitate them, I also kneeled, closing my eyes like the others, and thinking about how I should start my prayer.  One brother, who I found out later was a foreigner, came to me, placed his hands on my head, and started to pray.  I felt a great power. I had a feeling that fire was coming out of my whole body. It was such a strange feeling that I really don’t know how to describe it.  On the way back to my house, I felt so powerful and joyful, and I knew I was freed from sickness and depression. I returned home and started to do my chores as if I had never been sick. My family members didn’t know what was going on but they were pleased when they saw I was better.”

As time passed, Čelebija fell more in love with Jesus, and she became stranger to those around her.  Her husband and father-in-law had a good reputation among both Roma and Serbians in Leskovac because they were influential in politics. Under Tito’s Communism, although religious participation was not forbidden, it was restricted and downplayed. Even though her husband and father-in-law saw with their own eyes that she was healed, they forbade her to go to the “Christian sect” so that she would not embarrass them in front of the community. After every argument, fight, and beating Čelebija would endure, she would tell them, “You can beat and yell at me, but you cannot take away the joy from my heart. You can kill me, but I am not afraid of that anymore. I will never be able to forget how I experienced God of whom you are ashamed.”  She would always find a way to escape her house to go to the service where she would pray for her family to be converted. 

In 1999 when her husband realized that he could not pull her from the church, he decided to go with her to a service. Since he liked the message, he wanted to come more often. Eventually, he converted and after his conversion, the whole family came to Christ. 

In the story of the Roma revival that began in the 1990’s in Leskovac, Čelebija’s account is not unusual. Almost every other Roma family in Leskovac converted because of a miraculous healing experienced by someone they knew. Today, after thirty years of evangelization among the Roma in Leskovac, there are two Roma churches and pastors estimate the number of Christians to be well over 1000.  As it was back then, miraculous healings continue to happen today. In fact, this is one of the primary ways in which the gospel reaches other Roma families who still do not know Christ. 

Čelebija possessed a strong will to want to read the Bible—therefore, she learned how to read and write.  Today, she is the leader of the women’s work where more than 200 women come to the meetings.  She regularly visits sick people and with her personal example, she encourages them that God can turn their suffering into joy. 

All of Čelebija’s family remain close to God.  Her children with their spouses and their children regularly visit the church. Čelebija’s daughter married at nineteen to a man who is today a deacon in the Roma church. Her children are brought up in Christianity and her daughter married the son of a Roma pastor from Leskovac.  She also helps Čelebija in the women’s work.

 Čelebija’s conversion changed the life direction of her daughter and the other women in her family. Her daughter takes care of the household and the whole family but in a different way because the focus is now on Christ. She is free from the traditional mentality that minimizes women’s rights. As the Roma Christian community grows and matures, women have become more important and valuable in the eyes of their spouses and their community. Because of the church’s care and intentional effort, every year the number of early marriages decreases among the Roma girls. Along with the growing number of educated Roma in Leskovac, this change also improves the image of Roma in the eyes of the Serbians.

 

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

How God Lead Us Into Roma Mission

How God Lead Us Into Roma Mission

As we prepared to celebrate The Great Commission Center International’s (GCCI) 20th anniversary in 2013, we prayed to God for His guidance on launching new mission endeavors.  When I came across an article on the Roma people in Eastern Europe in Christianity Today, I felt touched by the Lord. However, I kept this to myself. Later, when I read another article on the Roma published in Mission Frontiers, I told my colleagues and asked them to pray with me to seek God’s will. I also showed these two articles to my mentor, Dr. Thomas Wang, who is the Founder and President Emeritus of GCCI, and asked for his advice.  He not only gave me a “green light” but also told me that he and Mrs. Wang were willing to go with me for a fact-finding trip. With the encouragement of Dr. Wang, I was confident to plan for further actions.

First, I wrote to the author, Melody Wachsmuth and asked for her permission to translate her 3 articles (the third in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research) into Chinese.  Surprisingly, Melody wrote to the three publishers to get permission for me.  I was  touched by Melody’s help and convinced that God was opening the door for the Chinese Church.

Secondly, I planned a trip to Eastern Europe. Now, the question became: How can we get in touch with the Roma leaders there? I shared my need with GCCI Hong Kong Board when I passed through Hong Kong in June of 2013. Dr. Titus Loong, a member of GCCI Hong Kong Board, introduced me to Rev. Viktor Sabo of Subotica, Serbia. We communicated through emails and agreed upon on our first trip to Serbia and Hungary in November 2013. Our first team consisted only of five people. Rev. Sabo made an arrangement for us to visit Roma churches and Christians in Subotica, Apatin, Belgrade, Jagodina and Leskovac in Serbia.  He also introduced us to Rev. Albert Durko, the director of Hungarian Gypsy Mission International. Rev. Durko and his colleagues came to Serbia to take us to visit his mission in Bekes, Hungary and they showed us their education, social service and church planting ministries among the Roma people. It was an eye-opening trip for all of us.

At the end of this first trip, Dr. Thomas Wang announced that GCCI would organize a consultation at the end of September, 2014 for Roma Christian leaders and missionaries who were working among the Roma people in Budapest, Hungary. In order to have broader representation to the consultation, we paid visits to Roma leaders in eight European countries in April of 2014. As a result, there were about 100 Roma leaders from a dozen countries that came to the Budapest consultation.

It has been GCCI’s policy to encourage the local people to take up the baton if we feel they are ready. Therefore, before the end of the 2014 consultation, Dr. Wang helped the Roma leaders form a steering committee of six Roma and non-Roma from six different countries to plan and prepare the next gathering in 2016. Nina Vujić, a Croatian serving in a Roma majority church, was elected as the coordinator. Thus, the Roma Networks was born.

As soon as the steering committee was formed, GCCI stepped aside and let the committee  be in charge. However, GCCI continues to serve in a supportive role. Through our Chinese and English publications, special prayer meetings and sharing, we continue to encourage Chinese churches worldwide to support and be involved in Roma ministries. We also organized two more conferences and a number of short-term mission trips from 2015-2017, mainly for the Chinese churches in the hope that they will see with their own eyes the spiritual and physical needs of the Roma people. Several Chinese churches in the USA, Canada, Hong Kong and even Eastern Europe are willing to take up the challenge. It is our prayer that more and more Chinese and non-Chinese churches will work together with the Roma leaders in evangelizing the Roma people not only in Eastern Europe, but all around the world.

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

Partners In Ministry with the Roma

Partners In Ministry with the Roma

Meeting the Roma

“I laughed more tonight than during our first two years here in the Czech Republic,” I said to my wife as we left Ivan and Jana’s house in 1999. We did not know it at the time but we had just met our best friends and greatest colleagues in our mission field. It was also our first introduction to the friendliness and warmth of the Roma people. Within days, we were planning together for youth events and an adult Bible study. The Roma in the city trusted me because they trusted Ivan and Jana. I would soon learn the particular importance of building trust as a basis for partnership when working as a gadje (non-Roma) with Roma. From those humble beginnings, a church was planted and Ivan and Jana became the leaders. Back then I could not have dreamed of the ministry path on which God would lead me. Since those early days, I have laughed, cried, and struggled with many Roma Christian leaders. It has been a joy to progress from evangelism and youth work, to church planting with a Roma couple, to coaching other Roma church planters, to traveling and teaching in Eastern Europe, to my present day job of developing partnering relationships between Roma and non-Roma churches, denominations, and organizations in Europe and the USA.

Even as an introvert, networking and developing partnering relationships comes naturally for me.  I have a strong belief that unity in the Body creates energy and opportunities that we cannot achieve when working alone. Too many ministries, either by choice or circumstance, are isolated and do not have enough people to do fruitful ministry. Roma Christians often have the added challenge of being marginalized. At best, churches do not see the necessity of reaching the Roma. At worst, they do not want Roma in their churches and oppose ministry to them. However, God is a global God who brings his people together to show a watching world what unity in Christ looks like.

Mission Partnering

In 2014 I attended the “Roma for the Nations” conference as a representative for ReachGlobal, a mission organization committed to developing, empowering, and releasing national workers.  Out of this conference, Roma Networks was established with the vision “to network, connect, and research for the sake of sharing the gospel and seeing transformation in Roma communities throughout Europe.” They do this through regional networks that come together to educate, empower, and encourage Roma and non-Roma leaders. During lunch one day at a 2015 conference, Jim Baker and I sat with the Roma Networks board and brainstormed possibilities of cooperation. I have been told, usually with a smile, that I have the gift of “finding work for others.” The leaders of Roma Networks have the same gift and after an hour and a half together, we each had long to-do lists that would take months to complete! This was the beginning of a rich partnership that would lead to lasting cooperation between our missionaries and the ministries represented by Roma Networks. Some of our work together included training in member care, training in the use of media tools, creating a documentary of God’s work among the Roma in Europe, coaching, and consulting.

One of the greatest felt needs of the Roma church in Europe is pastor training. The gospel is spreading quickly and the churches are struggling to make disciples. There are socio-economic factors that limit the number of full-time paid pastors. With this in mind, 11 ReachGlobal missionaries from two teams recently travelled in Hungary, Serbia, and Romania. The missionaries from the Catalyst Team work with nationals to launch gospel initiatives among marginalized people. The Global Equipping Team trains Christian leaders in emerging gospel movements. After collectively connecting with hundreds of Roma leaders and getting to know Roma culture and church life, we met with Roma Networks leaders for two days of planning. The outcome was a plan for pastor/leader training in the areas of Bible study (Pathways Bible Studies) and church planting. There is ongoing discussion about training in community development, story-centric Bible teaching and leadership development.

This partnership between the Catalyst Team, Global Equipping Team, and leaders of Roma ministries is built on trust and cooperative work. However, it is just the beginning. I recently had the privilege of serving as the U.S. representative at the Roma Networks country representative meetings in March 2017. It was gratifying to see people who I knew when they were just starting as pastors/church planters now traveling internationally as country representatives! Secondly, it was exciting to hear country reports from representatives of 27 countries. There were reports about a wide variety of ministries in diverse situations. For example, in Finland there are no “Roma churches” because they are all integrated. In the Czech Republic, however, the struggle for acceptance is hard and often discouraging.

Local Church Partnership

My presentation focused on building relationships between individual ministries in Europe and ReachGlobal missionaries and U.S. local churches. There is great synergy when these three partners can work together. One U.S. local church is considering sponsoring training in Community Health Evangelism (CHE) through the ReachGlobal Global Equipping team. The goal would be to train the church’s people and other missionaries in CHE. Then the local church in conjunction with experienced missionaries could equip Roma leaders in Europe to plant churches in a way that does not create dependency. This model of a local church working with a training missionary and a Roma ministry is ready to be multiplied with church planting, community development, Bible training, story-centric Bible teaching, and leadership development.

Things About Partnership that I Have Learned from the Roma

1.     Trust is the basis of all partnerships. Building a partnership is building a relationship, and this requires trust forming over time. Although both people and the task are important, trust can only be built if the focus is on the people—and this contributes to better long-term results. Although building trust is an important factor that should be emphasized in any partnership relationship, it is especially important in a Roma context because of Roma history and their current situation.

2.     Slow and steady wins the race. (See #1 above about taking time). Western missionaries (myself included) and church leaders tend to be very task oriented. They see what needs to be done and want to get to it. (I once had a missions pastor tell me I might not be the right person for this job because I didn’t have a winner-take-all-attitude. He said I should talk about Europe as the new ‘dark continent’ where we are going to launch an invasion to “invade and conquer” as soldiers of Christ! In my mind, our discussion ended at that moment.) But Roma culture, especially in Eastern Europe, is intensely relationship oriented and time efficiency is not as important as in Western culture.

3.     Network broadly/partner deeply. Not everyone you meet will be the right fit for a partnership. It is important to know what God is doing among many areas of ministry so that you can understand Roma culture, European culture, and local culture. It is important to spend time getting to know people so you really know how they are wired and how they do ministry. This takes time (see #1 and #2 above about taking time). So get to know a lot of Roma ministries and leaders. Find out where there can be a win-win situation where both sides will benefit with each other’s strengths.

4.     Partnership is a two way street. Partnership means that you are both equal partners. You may have different strengths but you should go into any partnership looking for those strengths that can work together. Push all thoughts out of your head that you are going to “help a poor, underdeveloped people.” The Roma people are marginalized, and in many cases, oppressed. But they are not weak and do not “need our help.” The Roma church is vibrant and has a lot to offer. Western churches need to look at the wealth of relationship, the faithfulness of Roma churches, and see how God is working among them. That is a story that God is writing to show the world something special about his character. Take the time to look for the strengths of both sides in this equal partnership (See #1,2,3 above about taking time).

Developing friendships and partnering with Roma churches has not always been easy but has always been rewarding and life-giving. I suggest you give it a try.

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

Questions of Prejudice in Hungary

Questions of Prejudice in Hungary

I am a sociologist and a Roma woman. I work for the Kecskemet Reformed Church Roma Mission and I primarily deal with social phenomena concerning Roma people. I think it is important to exchange prejudice for having personal experience and relationship with one another. I often participate in discussions where I can hear questions similar to the following ones.

Why do Roma start having children so early? Why do they have so many children?

To explore the reasons why Roma girls start having children so early, we should look further than the explanation regarding the lack of education. As we observe the everyday life of Roma families, we find that Roma children do not receive careful and close attention at every stage of development. The parents’ priorities are that their children will have their tummies filled and that they will not be cold or become ill. When girls’ sexual maturing begins, this may be the first time in their lives that they receive special attention. This special attention from the opposite sex is such a nice feeling that they soon have a relationship—but as they are not prepared for the consequences, they often become pregnant. The other side to this phenomenon is that education has no real value in their eyes—conversely, giving birth to children and becoming a mother offers them a lot of value in their communities.

Long ago, more children were born in non-Roma families than today. But as time passed by, education and careers became more important for women and their salaries became an important income for their families. Consequently, the birth of their first child was postponed until they became older. The later a woman gives birth to the first child, the shorter the rest of her fertility period, and fewer children will be born. There is no real sign of this phenomenon in Roma families since the value of education has had a minimal effect on this group.

The reproduction rate of Roma people is so high. Will they outnumber Hungarians soon? Will they attack Hungarians and conquer them?

This statement is the typical product of propaganda. Although we rarely hear it in this kind of sharp and extremist wording, we often hear it in “softer” versions. This statement is not only false, but it intentionally causes fear and therefore it strengthens tensions and the distance between Roma and non-Roma people.

This viewpoint shows us the default presumption: some people must rule over others. This is opposed to our Christian worldview and our understanding of humans.

Roma only have so many children in order to get child benefits and other social benefits given according to the number of children.

It is quite obvious from the demographic data that Roma families had just as many children before the introduction of child benefits. Of course they know about it and count on social benefits, but I think it is similar in non-Roma families. The difference is in the significance of the social benefits as income, since great numbers of Roma families are disadvantaged and this form of support is very important for them.

Why are Roma so loud and aggressive when they are applying for services and social benefits?

Roma people have to face prejudice and offence many times; many people are afraid of them or reject them without any sign of acceptance, without having any personal contact or experience with them. At the same time they need to access some services and they need to get the attention of people to address their issues. The threat of physical insult, the aggressive communication or the loud communication itself helps them to achieve their goals. If they get affirmation for this—it did not work, when trying gently, but it worked when they were loud—then most likely they will try a similar approach next time. If these practices did not work they would not use them. These are easy-to-access and approved tools to achieve different goals.

Why should we be afraid of Roma people?

Nobody should be afraid of the Roma. Fear is a self-defense mechanism. Whatever behavior we think is normal is part of our culture. To be afraid of any other strange and new behavior is a natural part of our lives. The only cure for it is personal experience and getting to know new things and people.

Why do Roma say they are starving when we can see many overweight children?

They are not fat because they eat a lot every day, but because they eat unhealthy food.

Eating is very important for Roma families and it is a way of expressing their love. Yet, we can observe short-term thinking as a tendency among them. Their priority is to fulfill their needs today. They enjoy eating and cooking as well. They usually eat high calorie food: pasta, potatoes, meat.

Lack of information and an attempt to satisfy desires generated by television advertisements–since television is the only source of information for many Roma families–they buy unhealthy sweets and other food full of preservatives for their children. Overspending at the beginning of the month and eating cheap food for the rest of the month is typical for them, because of longing for better food in times of deprivation and because of this short-term thinking. Cheap foods are also known to be poor in vitamins but high in calories.

Why don't they want to be like us?

Everyone would like to live better, but the culture of everyone is equally precious. We should not strive to become similar, but to accept each other and to delight in the values of each other.

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

Obeying The Call

Overcoming Cultural Obstacles to Mission

Obeying The Call

It was midnight on a winter night when I returned home to Leskovac, Serbia by bus from a city about 90 miles away where my wife and I felt called to plant a new church. My wife was still up waiting for me. With sadness I said to her,  “No, we are not going to move to Jagodina! I don’t think it is the will of God, because otherwise, He would help us find an apartment to rent with our small financial resources. Since God did not provide, then it means it is not His will.” Immediately, my wife answered, “Yes, we will go, we will move there!”

One year before, we had already started to plant a church in that city.  Deep in my heart, I knew that God was calling us to move there, but my logic opposed it because we did not have enough money for even the basic things like food. Somebody had offered an unfinished house for us to stay in, and it had no bathroom, incomplete kitchen, and no heating.  Because of this, I told my wife that I did not want to take her and our two young sons to live in such bad conditions. To make matters more difficult, the youngest had been born by caesarian section only two months before, so this would have been even more difficult for my wife.  Her determination to obey God, however, made me feel ashamed. So I said to myself, “If she is ready to move into those conditions with two  young children, then I should be even more ready.”

In our lives, we often face giants, but this period of my life felt like the biggest challenge that I had ever faced. I know that the enemy wanted to use fear to stop us from moving—and if that had been the case, all the fruits of salvation that we see now after 13 years would never have happened.

The Call

I came to Christ at the age of 10, and accepting God’s love for me healed the sense of inferiority I always had as a Roma among Serbians. At that time, I could not even imagine that God would call me to his mission to bring His Kingdom to the lost. As I grew older, I became very involved in my church in many different ministries, but I felt no attraction to become a leader or a pastor.

A Serbian who had a great love for Roma people started my church. This Roma church was probably the first in former Yugoslavia, established in 1986. There were only 70 people in the church until 1999 when we had a great revival, growing it to 900 people. At that time, the church had many ministries involving women and children, and also started a church planting project. An organization from England was offering to support and educate young leaders for five years. During that time, the new leaders needed to start a new church somewhere in Serbia. I was one of nine people that joined this project and many of us from this group did indeed plant new churches.

The call of God was very clear to me, and for me, knowing that allowed me to keep moving forward. There were many conversations between God and myself, similar to Gideon’s situation in Judges. Every time, God confirmed to me that He was indeed calling me.

Cultural Barriers in a Roma Context

In Roma culture, when you are the only boy in a family, you have a very special place. However, my older sister has cerebral palsy, and this situation made my parents work very hard, spending most of their money on her treatments. Their greatest fear was that there would be no one to take care of my sister when they became too old—they would always tell me that this would be my duty. Also in the Roma culture, the only son would never leave his parents. Roma would never put their parents in old people’s homes—we take care of them until they die. Families stay close or often live together.

When I understood that God was calling me to move and leave my parents and my sister, I wanted to obey God, but these deeply ingrained cultural values made this an extremely difficult calling.  After I told my parents that I was going to move to a different city, they were broken and angry.  My father told us that if we move we should never come back or talk to them again. Because of this, despite the clear calling from God, I started to create reasons to make it look like it was not God’s will for us to go. It was extremely difficult that my parents would not release me, and for me to feel that I was neglecting my duty as a good son.  

It was with many prayers, tears and the courage of my wife that I could finally make the decision to move. Through this experience, I came to see that all cultures must submit to the culture of heaven, the culture of Jesus’ love. I have never regretted that I obeyed the culture of Jesus, and thankfully my relationship with my parents got better as they began to see the fruits and blessings of our work.  They began to see how important it was that we were working for the Lord.

Stepping into Mission

The first morning after we moved to Jagodina, we experienced our first miracle. I opened the door and found two loaves of bread and milk sitting on an outside table. The anonymous attached note read, “Miki this is for you and your family.” God continued to take care of my family and me as we preached the gospel to the children, youth and adults. We never lacked for basic necessities—there was always enough. Still, there were many challenges. Living with my parents, every person in the family had their own job to make the family function. My job had been to work and earn money while my parents took care of other things like managing the money. So when we moved, we had to learn how to do everything, from practical things to learning how to pay our bills on time. 

Eight months after we moved to that unfinished house, we moved to a house where we live to this day. The work and vision continue to grow and expand and the ministry has influenced thousands of people, children and youth. We opened a children’s kindergarten, children’s clubs in several towns around Jagodina, a summer camp and new house groups that we hope will become new churches. God provides buildings, cars, coworkers and finances for every month.

When God is calling you to a mission, He is already preparing a way for you to walk in it, and only if you follow this way will you be able to be a witness of His miracles, blessings and provision. Of course there will be many challenges, particularly if your own cultural values oppose your call. However, when I see all the things that God did through the past decade I am happy that I obeyed that call.  My obedience made it easier for me to trust God as he continues to lead me in ministry among the Roma.   

This is an article from the July-August 2017 issue: The Roma

Identities & Cultures

Understanding as a Prerequisite for Mission

Identities & Cultures

I am Roma, but I was raised in a non-Roma community. I was 18 when I gave my life to God. As I was reading my Bible, I came to the story of Moses. God revealed to me He was sending me to my people to share the good news. Therefore, it was inevitable that I needed to be changed inside and outside, and also study Roma communities on a deeper level.

I became interested in the history, culture, habits, lifestyle and language of my own people.

I visited several different communities, mostly Hungarian Roma. One of my friends said: “All Roma communities are completely different. The Roma are not a coherent mass. Therefore, it is unavoidable [that you need] to learn a lot about them.”  In my personal experience, I have found that this is indeed vital.

As Roma, we have a unique perspective about how we see the world, others and ourselves. My experience is that whether we take this into account or fail to do so will affect our approach to mission.

The Roma and Identity

After my conversion to Christianity, I had to redefine my life and my identity. The latter has taken years and it is still happening. Since there were no Roma Christians with a healthy identity around me who had gone through this process and therefore could help me in it, it was only the grace of God that helped me redefine my Roma identity. Today I can describe myself as a Christian Hungarian with Roma origins. That being said, I think there are other good ways to declare a healthy Christian Roma identity.

Often, the identity and self-esteem of different Roma communities determine how they approach the larger society.

For example, in Hungary, Carpathian, Vlah, and woodworker (trough-maker) Roma groups each have a different view of themselves and of others.

If we imagine a theoretical pyramid starting from the top (the most elite) down to the bottom, each Roma group would put themselves, other Roma groups and non-Roma people in different places on this pyramid. This affects how they welcome and accept missionaries (and their message).

In most of the poor woodworker (trough-maker) and Hungarian Roma communities, we can observe some level of identity crisis. They are not proud to be Roma, because they are often surrounded by prejudice and they can sense and see they are despised. Missionaries primarily target these disadvantaged communities—why is this the case? When a mission or ministry reaches these particular Roma–since they see no other option–they are compelled (or maybe they try) to conform to the missionary’s value system and expectations of the majority society. Sometimes, this is because missionaries focus on changing cultural factors rather than focusing on the gospel—this leads to a dead-end in mission. 

When Roma from this group are born again or hear the gospel, a key need is to build up or redefine their Roma identity. This raises the question:  Can a non-Roma minister help them with this and if yes, how?

In the case of Roma people who already have a stronger identity (e.g. Vlah Roma), when they become a Christian, they only need to discover how they can live their Roma identity in a biblical way, rather than feeling like they need to try to adhere to all the expectations of the majority society.  They can live with their chin up—as a devoted Christian, yet also fully Roma.

Roma People and Education

Education had a great emphasis in my life, even though my circumstances or finances have not always allowed me to study.

As I mentioned before, Roma people are not a coherent mass, so education has a different meaning in each of the communities.

The disadvantaged Hungarian Roma people tend to see education as the key to their elevation. They are more dependent on the majority society than, for example, Gabor Roma communities, so they need to live and succeed with a lifestyle similar to the non-Roma people.

Groups like the Gabor Roma people usually live in more closed communities, trying to stay independent from society’s expectations. Though globalization has had a significant effect on their culture, they still reject any efforts that would assimilate their style of life. The community is self-sufficient; they don’t feel the need for further education. Gabor Roma have been masters of metalwork for centuries and the women run businesses. This also indicates that these Roma live their lives in a completely different social structure. Their children do not want higher education, because they do not need it to live in their communities.

Despite this, the Gabor Roma study things that benefit their way of life. All the men have to get a driving license at a young age. They learn all the main routes of travel through Europe by heart. All of them speak Romani, Romanian and Hungarian very well and often they also speak French and some Slavic languages. More recently, they learned German and English for everyday communication. Many people think education will help the Roma to integrate into mainstream society. I don’t believe this is true—education without the gospel will not change hearts. 

Mission in Christ’s Way

Trustworthiness is a key characteristic for missionaries. What does it mean to be a trustworthy person? To be devoted? To have a high level of morals? These are obviously necessary. We need to consider, though, that in different cultures the values, habits and lifestyles are different— so how can we determine whether a missionary is trustworthy and can develop trustworthiness within a given culture? Maybe all Christians at some point have thought that our commitment to Christ has made us capable of any ministry without preparation. 

Have you considered how God called Israel?

According to the New Testament, God emptied Himself and became a fully Jewish man to lead Israel to salvation via Jesus Christ. So He did not start by forming Israel into His likeness, but rather in Christ He became a fully Jewish man.

When we are doing ministry to the Roma, do we research and study first and become like the ones we are going to serve, or do we strive to assimilate into our likeness those to whom we are going?

Several misunderstandings can arise from the differences.  For example, a preacher—who had good intentions and who really loved Roma people—entered the Roma district of town wearing a black priest garment. The black garment reminded the Roma people—those who rarely or never visit church—of funerals and death of which they are very afraid. This, along with other similar cultural differences caused tensions and eventually brought an end to the mission work of the local church.

In another case, a preacher who had long hair and wore an old fashioned suit tried to visit the highly particular and wealthy local Roma people, but eventually he failed to build any bridges.

Based on the above mentioned cases, I think it is important we develop mutual trust and acceptance. It is important that they can see and sense that I am one of them, I am with them, I understand their situations and problems, and they can rely on me. I also need to let them help me. One who needs grace visits the others who also need grace.

Missional Faithfulness to the Gospel

When I started to participate in mission to the Roma, many times I thought that I could achieve results. I have seen many times that when the mission is results-oriented and financed from foreign sources, it involuntarily compels the missionaries to start thinking in numbers. Do we report the number of people who really came to Christ? Do we report those as baptized who became born again? Can we distort the clear message of the gospel for the sake of our own or others’ purposes?

Another aspect of the faithfulness to the gospel is the question of how culture relates to the gospel. We often face this subject in contemporary mission. Shall we be aware of the culture of a community or the culture of the missionaries in such measure that it may alter the clear message of the gospel, and therefore perhaps cause  insignificant or neutral things to become significant?

In conclusion, to what extent do our missions consider these differences, identity, and cultural factors in a way that helps the Roma come to Christ? 

This is an article from the May-June 2017 issue: The Zume Project

The Commissioning of a Generation

It’s all about Obedience

The Commissioning of a Generation

This very moment, there are believers around the world on the cusp of taking the next step for the Lord.  In the eyes of some, that step may seem small, like sharing the gospel with a coworker, or it may be as large as selling a house and moving to a new country for Jesus.  Either way, the size of the step is not what matters; rather it is that the Lord has spoken and now we get the privilege of following Him where He calls.  Though at times what He speaks may seem difficult, for all of us professing Jesus, we are called to obey Him.  His statement in the Great Commission still stands: “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

In the world, and even in a Christian culture where obedience sadly feels like a dirty word, we are God’s people who are to follow wherever he calls.  “Jesus is Lord” is a bold statement that we profess.  And we are not just to obey His call, but also to teach others to do the same.  If only our minds could truly see that obeying God is not a matter of drudgery, but a privilege to be honored.  But as many of us can attest, obedience is generally not easy.  I’m sure it was not easy for Abraham to step out toward a land he did not know.  Or easy for Moses to approach Pharaoh and say, “Let my people go.” Was it easy for Noah to build the ark when there was no rain?  Was it easy for John the Baptist to become less, so Jesus could become more?  Was it easy for the disciples to receive beatings, persecution and, most of them, death for the faith?  Was it easy for Saul to convert from Judaism and become Paul and tirelessly work for the sake of the kingdom?  And even Jesus himself—was it easy for Him to submit his life to the cross? Yet even He said, “Not my will, but yours be done.”  In a Christian culture that is fearfully sitting on its hands waiting for “open doors,” we have Scriptures full of people who walked by faith, striving toward what was ahead, even when the door didn’t feel very open.  So when the Lord speaks, how will you respond?  Stepping out in these times is something we call Immediate. Radical. Costly. Obedience.  Most people who are used mightily by the Lord learn to operate in this this kind of radical and immediate obedience fluently.  Let me be clear: This does not mean it is easy; it just means they have learned that He is Lord. God loves to take fragile vessels like this who have been faithful in small things and entrust more to them.  In doing so, faith is built, but apart from obedience, I can hardly imagine how faith can grow.

To make this point, a friend of mine named Curtis shares a story of training the leaders of one of the top five underground church networks in China.  The theme of the time together was the Lord gathering people from all different tribes and nations into His kingdom.  At the gathering, Curtis put a world map on the wall and began to explain some of what was taking place with Christianity in various countries.  This group had essentially been cut off from global Christianity for the previous 40 years, so they were scrupulously writing notes.  While that training was coming to a close, the Lord laid it on Curtis’ heart that one of the people in the room was called to foreign missions.  This was an uncommon thing for a Chinese believer in that time.  It was more common for people to travel throughout China to share Jesus, but not often outside of China.  He shared what the Lord spoke to him with the believers gathered, and hearing this, the group decided to pray for 10 minutes and search God to see who it was.  After praying, the question was asked whether the Lord had laid it on someone’s heart.  No one responded.  So they prayed again for ten minutes.  Again, no one responded.  So another time, they sought the Lord, but yet again, no one responded.  This happened seven times, but after the seventh time, a woman started crying and said, “It’s me.  Even before you asked the question the first time, when the map was put on the wall and Burma was talked about, the Lord told me I’m called to Burma. But I don’t know anyone there, the language or how I could support myself. But the Lord has spoken and I will obey.”  After this, the believers in that room spent some time commissioning the woman to be sent out.  By the time they finished, it was early into the next morning and Curtis took some time to sleep, but he awoke three hours later.  He looked around and seeing that the girl was not there, he asked a man where she had gone.  Somewhat confused by the question, the man looked at Curtis and said, “She is gone.” Curtis asked if it was her turn to get food for the group, but the man still somewhat confused by the question said, “The Lord called her to Burma.  She has gone.  While you were sleeping, the Lord raised up another woman to go with her.  After this, we emptied our pockets and there was just enough money for two one-way bus tickets to the border of Burma and China.  They took the first bus out at 4am and we are just now getting back from dropping them off at the station.”     

So now, right where you are, imagine the map of the United States in front of you—or better yet—pull a map out to look at. Now look at your state… your county…all the way down to the census tract level. Will we be a part of what God is doing in this generation? Will we join hands together in seeing the Gospel of the Kingdom leavened into every county and census tract in our nation and beyond?

Immediate. Radical. Costly. Obedience.  If we do not go where God calls and where we need God, how can we expect to see God-size movements?  So when God calls you, will you go?  Whether big or small, will you obey?  Even when it is hard, may our mindset be that it is an honor and a privilege to follow no matter how narrow the path.  

This is an article from the May-June 2017 issue: The Zume Project

Launching a Global Movement of Movements

Launching a Global  Movement of Movements

Over six years ago I came to a stunning realization that changed my life and ministry forever. As a member of Frontier Ventures and a “disciple” of Ralph Winter, I am fully committed to the biblical necessity of reaching the unreached peoples of the world—of taking the gospel to those who are cut off from access to salvation by barriers of language, culture and ethnic identity. But I came to the realization that simply establishing a “church” presence in every people was not enough. In fact, in some ways it could be worse than doing nothing at all.

For if we simply go to every people group and establish a church like many we have in the West, where believers are not equipped to go and make disciples and churches do not plant reproducing churches, then we will have established in every people a sterile form of the Christian faith that could inoculate those in need of the gospel against the powerful biblical faith of Scripture where Jesus has called all of us to go and make disciples who disciple others. Establishing a faulty form of doing church in every people group could prevent the creation of the thousands of discipleship movements that are essential to providing access to the gospel to every person.

This realization started me on a journey to discover the most effective methods of making disciples who go on to disciple others. There is simply nothing more critical for the global church to learn how to do than to equip believers to make disciples and start movements of discipleship and church planting within every people group. As I discovered the various methods God is using to foster these movements of discipleship, methods such as T4T (Training for Trainers) or the Discovery Bible Study Method, I have shared them with you in the pages of Mission Frontiers.

My wife and I read the wonderful books available on this topic and had gone to the seminars, all with the desire to apply what we were learning in the real world. We wanted to be among those faithful followers of Jesus who made the kind of disciples who go on to make more disciples.

But it wasn’t happening! We were not starting new groups or making disciples who were starting groups. Something was wrong; something was missing, but we did not know what it was. We had most of the head knowledge, but the practical skills were missing. We needed someone to come alongside us and show us how to do it—just like Jesus did with
his disciples.

In His providence, God brought a trainer into our lives and we formed a group in our home. He trained us in the process of starting a group and running it with those we invited to participate. We now have two different groups where we are training people to go and do the same. We have learned a lot and while there is much more for us to learn, we are committed to the process of making disciples, so we know we will get better at it over time.

I tell you this story in order to illustrate a critical need in missions today and the reason for this particular issue of Mission Frontiers. In order to provide access to the gospel to every person living within every people group, we will need thousands of disciple-making movements started by ordinary people like you and me. Right now there is a critical shortage of trainers who are able to help people get started in making disciples. This is where the Zume Project comes in.

 The Zume Project (pronounced zoo-may) is designed to help provide the initial spark of inertia to get groups started and to begin the training process. Through a web-based video curriculum, the participants in each of the new Zume groups are led through the process of hosting a meeting with all of its various elements. The video curriculum takes the place of an in-person trainer such as the one that helped my wife and me get started with our church. The curriculum helps to establish the vision, values and practices that empower ordinary people to become disciple-makers and church planters one generation after another. When someone goes to http://www.zumeproject.com and registers a new group, a live coach is assigned to that group to help in answering questions. You will not be left on your own, but the video curriculum is meant to convey the content of the disciple-making process.

The web-based video curriculum is not meant to be a permanent part of the disciple-making process. It is only meant to help get new groups started for the first time in an area. Once a new group has begun, it is expected that each participant will become an in-person trainer who will help to get new groups started without using the video curriculum. From then on each generation of disciple-makers will foster each succeeding generation of disciple-makers as in-person trainers. The disciple-making DNA that is to be reproduced one generation after another is contained in the initial video curriculum but the video curriculum itself is not to be used after the first generation of disciple makers is trained. It is the initial spark that can start the engine of multi-generational discipleship and
church planting.

So What Makes Zume Special?

Why have we chosen to highlight Zume? As I have mentioned, it is critical to the cause of world evangelization that average believers learn how to become disciple makers. There are currently very few places where this sort of training can take place and very few trained people who can equip believers to start disciple-making movements. The Zume Project has come up with a creative and effective means to fill this “training gap” between the need and the available supply of trainers. They have also developed the computer software to allow for the efficient fostering of new groups and the tracking of their progress as they grow and multiply. My experience with their website has been a pleasant one, where each step forward is well laid out and easy to understand.

The people behind the Zume Project have extensive experience in training disciple makers. Curtis Sergeant trained Ying Kai and worked with him to develop the T4T Process. The people he has trained have planted hundreds of thousands of churches. Now he is taking the training of disciples to a global level with the Zume Project. The Zume Project is now operational here in the U.S. but will go global in the near future.

If We Build It, Will They Come?

The movie, Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner introduced into our cultural lexicon the phrase, “Build it and they will come.” But just building one of the best disciple-making websites available in the world today does not guarantee success. There are many factors that will determine whether or not the Zume Project will succeed. Here are a couple of them.

Those interested in making disciples will need to learn that this resource is available. Even with the help of Mission Frontiers, it will not be easy to get the word out. Those who believe in the potential of this project will need to be its marketing department and invite others to participate in it.

It is a big unknown as to how many there are in the American Evangelical church community who are committed to obeying Jesus in making disciples and who will be eager to get involved with this new project. But the real question is what will you do with this opportunity to learn to make disciples?

The Zume Project is one of those rare opportunities to change the course of world evangelization. It is an opportunity to launch a movement of movements where we foster disciple-making movements in every people group and in every region of the world until there is no place left where the gospel is not readily available to every person. There is no guarantee that the Zume Project will succeed, but it will likely fail if we all do nothing. So let us run with it and see what marvelous things God does in and through us.

Definitions: The term “simple church” is used a number of places in this issue of MF. For our purposes it is defined as a spiritual family with Christ in their midst as King, who love God, love others, and make disciples.

This is an article from the May-June 2017 issue: The Zume Project

The Time is Now

The Time is Now

We are living in the greatest missional opportunity in world history. I believe this to be wholeheartedly true. In the United States, one nation has become the home for every nation. We are now presented with a unique and precious opportunity to sow the gospel into every country on our own soil! Just think, whether our country experiences revival and sustains freedom for hundreds of years or whether persecution and hard times hit our country soon, either way, the internationals who are temporarily calling America home will eventually be forced back or continue to influence those back in their homeland. Now is the time! Can you see it? The task has come to our backyard! It is right in front of us. The time is now to get the gospel to these precious souls and to all the lost of every people group in America. We are at a tipping point and I believe a generation is rising up that sees Jesus for who He is, is counting the cost, and with joy-filled hearts we are responding to His love with immediate, radical obedience.

Time. It really is about time. “The time is now” is so much more than a cliché line; it is a cry for urgency and an anthem to pick up the pace, to respond with fervor to the love that Jesus displayed on the cross. Many people would tell you that “pace” and “urgency” are not spiritual matters. They would argue that God, His Word, eternal destinies, and eternal souls are the real spiritual matters at hand. And yes, they absolutely are. However, we cannot forget the eternal destiny of eternal souls is determined in time. So time and pace are most assuredly critical spiritual matters as well.

The Lord does not delight in the death of any man, but desires for all to come to repentance and for all to willingly love and worship Him. But the fact is that more than one non-Christian per second passes into a Christ-less eternity.

Right where you are, begin snapping your fingers every second.

Keep going.

This pace does not slow down when we are sleeping, when we are at our respective jobs, in the classrooms, or while we are on vacation. One soul. Every second. Dying. And living forever in torment apart from Jesus Christ.

This does not please God. This breaks His heart beyond words. And it should ours too. His heart is for ALL to know him and WE are His method to get the gospel to our neighbors and to the ends of the earth.

Our generation is responsible for this generation of souls.

Pace matters. Urgency matters (You can stop snapping now).

It is true: we are living in a day where there are more Christians alive at one time than ever before! The church is larger than ever before! But this number can be misleading because there are also more non-Christians alive than ever before. The sobering fact remains that the growth of the church is not keeping up with the population growth of the world. In America alone, the number of believers and church attenders has gone down in every county in the country. Not one county went up in number or percentage. Not one county stayed the same.

Pace matters. Urgency matters.

I do not say this as a pessimist or to say doom has come upon us. We hear enough of this talk to last a lifetime. In fact, I am saying quite the opposite! My heart believes and burns with faith that a mobilized faithful generation is ready, willing, and hoping for such a movement to arise! It’s time to turn the tables, get our hands dirty, mobilize laborers for the harvest, and get in the game! I am hearing inspiring story after story, ministry after ministry, church after church that is noticing this downward trend and is willing at any cost to be a part of a miraculous move of God in our generation that bears and multiplies fruit. I hear incredible stories, some of which you will read about in this issue, of men and women who are responding in love to be harvesters in their community, to sow seeds of the gospel and to rapidly reproduce healthy groups where they are. God is doing it! It is happening! He is building His church!

And yes, pace matters. Urgency matters. The time is now to multiply disciples.

For some, talking about pace can give the impression that whatever is being multiplied is being multiplied at a compromise or a lesser quality. This certainly can be true, but it is not necessarily true.

Curtis Sergeant, disciple-trainer, church planter, and founder of Zumé, says it this way:

“There are some things that if they happen faster actually improve the quality and that’s the type of pace we are interested in increasing. We are not interested in mediocrity. We are not interested in multiplying a bad product. We are not interested in multiplying weak disciples. But if we can find a way to increase the pace of disciple making and disciple multiplication without hurting the fruit – we are interested in that! So if we can find ways to increase the pace of multiplying good fruit, it will have incredible impact on the spiritual landscape. It will have a huge impact on the expansion of the Kingdom of God. And this is something we do need to be concerned about. Time really does matter.”

What would it look like if we took multiplication and pace seriously? What if we realized the exponential difference between 18-month multiplication compared to 9-month multiplication? What if we captured the heart of God on his people and went out with bold, unoffendable hearts into the harvest field?

It has already begun.

Our generation is responsible for this generation’s souls.

Pace matters. Urgency matters.

The time is NOW.

This is an article from the May-June 2017 issue: The Zume Project

The Zume Project Igniting The Spark

The Zume Project Igniting The Spark

We, as believers, have been given many sure and precious promises from the Lord that anchor us to an eternal hope and an eternal victory. Promises such as every people group on the planet having a chance to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, promises of Jesus’ return to rule and reign in a restored and redeemed creation, and promises of Jesus being with us to the very end of the age. There is no one to be more inspired and hope-filled on this earth than a follower of our Lord Jesus.

Until the fulfillment of those promises, we are also promised hardships and tribulations. When we look around, it is no wonder that we see a world full of brokenness, death, sin, and man choosing his or her own way over God’s design. Victory may be sure, but it will not come easily. It will always come with a cost. As we follow in the footsteps of our Savior, we too must lay down our own lives and pick up our own cross.

Everything in this world, crafted by the enemy himself, is designed to slow, halt, poison, destroy, and damage the advancement of God’s mission on this earth. Everything!

But Jesus made us to overcome this world.

It would be easy to quit. It would be simple to think someone else will step up and answer the call. It would be tragic if we sat hopeless in a broken world when we are the ones He put here to co-labor with Him to do something about it.

In America:

Only 2% of Christians share their faith.

                  Let’s do something about it – in Jesus’ name!

In the last 10 years, church attendance has gone down in every single county.

                  Let’s do something about it – in Jesus’ name!

In the last 10 years, church membership dropped nearly 10% and population increased 11.4%.

                  Let’s do something about it – in Jesus’ name!

Transfers or children being born account for 96% of church growth.

                  Let’s do something about it – in Jesus’ name!

Of all Americans, 53% are now considered “uninvitable.”

                  Let’s do something about it – in Jesus’ name!

Our cities and states are becoming increasingly unreached.

                  Let’s do something about it – in Jesus’ name!

Other religions like Islam, Hinduism, Atheism, and Secularism are shaping society.

                  Let’s do something about it – in Jesus’ name!

We all have seen or heard of movements taking place in China, India, Africa, and many other places by the hand of the Lord. Now, it is America’s time. Let us believe this in faith!

As God rhetorically asked in His first book, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Only 1% of church leaders say, “today’s churches are doing very well at discipling new and young believers” (Barna, State of Discipleship, 2015). And yet this same study says that 77% of all practicing Christians believe discipleship to be very important. We know discipleship is vital to the health and growth of God’s Kingdom, but we just aren’t making it happen. Christians want to be discipled and they want to make disciples of others, but they need tools, training, and mentoring to make it all possible. Zúme aims to address this very specific and timely need.


It was out of this knowledge of the increasing problem in America and of the anchor in our sure hope in God's promises that the solution of the Zúme Project was born.

What is the Zúme (zoo-may) Project?

The Zúme Project mission is to help ordinary people make a big impact for the Kingdom of God by obeying and implementing the Great Commandment and Great Commission. Ultimately, Zúme hopes to see disciples multiplying in every census tract (a neighborhood or small town-sized area averaging around 4,000 people, smaller than a county) in the United States and every Omega District globally (an extension of the 4k Map), using an online training platform focused on equipping participants in the basic disciple-making and simple church planting multiplication principles, processes, and practices.

Zúme is not an organization or a group, but a tool and experience for all ministries, churches, small groups, laymen, students, and leaders of any kind to make disciples who make disciples. There is no organization that is “running” the Zúme Project. It is an open-handed coalition of people who have a heart to carry out Christ’s command to make disciples of every people group on earth and expand His Kingdom to every place until His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. So in a culture full of “who accomplished or created what,” the Zúme Project offers a threat-free hand to all who simply want to see the Great Commission fulfilled.

The Zúme Project is a solution in the modern era to catalyze disciple-making movements in our day and connect groups and individuals with live coaches who otherwise would have never had the opportunity. It was launched on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2017 as a website at http://www.zumeproject.com, complete with training videos (in a video-scribe format), downloadable tools, online coaches, and a group-mapping feature enabling groups across the country and around the world to access to all the necessary resources they need to make multiplying disciples.

The curriculum is intentionally aimed at teaching people how to make disciples who make disciples, who make disciples. The 10-week course teaches key principles and processes for making and multiplying disciples using simple, easy-to-use tools and resources to equip and empower ordinary believers to reach every neighborhood.


Rolling out the Zúme Project in Phases

The first phase of the Zúme Project focuses specifically on the United States and English-speaking people. The initial goal is for there to be a training group of four to twelve people in each census tract in the country. Each of these training groups will start two first-generation churches which will then begin to reproduce. There are about 75,000 census tracts so this will mean 150,000 first-generation churches.

The second phase focuses on other language groups in the United States. The data available through http://www.mappingcenter.org is mapped to the census tract level so it will be easy for those working in each of the census tracts to determine which of the target languages are significantly represented within their local area and seek to start training groups in the appropriate languages. These training groups can then start first-generation churches in those language groups.


The third phase focuses globally in major world languages. The framework for targeting the training groups is based on the 4K maps developed by YWAM. It divides the world into segments based on population and the general level of gospel saturation, with less evangelized areas receiving about three times the attention of more evangelized areas. For more information on the framework, go to http://www.4Kworldmap.com The p.roject will use the next generation of the data, 4K Plus, which divides the world into about 60,000 Omega Districts. There will be training groups started in each Omega District which will then launch first-generation churches within the districts. In the least evangelized areas this will be a training group for approximately every 50,000 people.

How to Get Involved

It is simple.

Head over to http://www.zumeproject.com and sign up using your email. Then gather some of your friends together to host a training. If you are a pastor, leader of an organization or institution, or if you oversee and influence different types of groups, this is an incredible way to engage and activate them to accomplish all that we dream of them doing—making disciples who make disciples.

Help Spread the Word!

The more we get the word out there about this tool and online disciple-making experience, the more impact it will ultimately have. So we are calling on you for your help! Please share these articles, the Zúme website, and endless numbers of your group’s pictures on social media and by any means possible. How incredible would it be to see every census tract in America making disciples? Can you imagine the impact this would have on our families, our society, our churches, the lost, and the world around us?

We believe this is a defining moment in history.

Simple faith. Radical obedience. Ordinary people – making a big impact for the Kingdom of God by obeying and implementing the Great Commission and Great Commandment.


Let’s ALL do something about it – in Jesus’ name!

This is an article from the May-June 2017 issue: The Zume Project

Planting Rapidly Reproducing Churches

Planting Rapidly Reproducing Churches

The principles in this article are gleaned from experience in planting rapidly reproducing churches in China. They were then tested through training, coaching and mentoring church planters serving in over one hundred nations, mostly working among unreached people groups. Over the years I have concluded it is difficult to make generalizations about evangelism; but it is more appropriate to make generalizations about discipleship and church planting. Evangelism is quite context-specific because half of the process is determined by what an individual believes and understands truth to be. Once someone has given themselves fully to the Lord, the discipleship and church planting processes become almost entirely about what God is calling us to. That deals with the culture of the Kingdom of God rather than the cultures from which we come.

All Disciples Are Involved

The main purpose of life is to glorify the Lord. We can do this best when we know Him most intimately and serve Him most fervently. It is God’s intention for every disciple to be engaged in ministry. Those who are gifted with the five leadership gifts in Ephesians 4:11-12 are to equip those with other gifts to do the work of the ministry, which results in the building up of the Body of Christ. Though each believer has a different gifting and a unique calling, everyone is to be engaged in living out the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-40) and carrying out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).

If we are living out the Great Commandment then we will be making reproducing disciples because part of the disciple-making process is “teaching them to obey everything I [Christ] have commanded” and the Commission itself is one of those commands. Hence, every believer should by definition be involved in making reproducing disciples. It is a short step from this toward starting reproducing spiritual communities (churches) because several of the other commands demand a spiritual community to carry out. Reproducing disciples will result in reproducing churches as a matter of obedience.

God is concerned not only with what He accomplishes in us in conforming us to the image of Christ, but also what He accomplishes through us in bringing glory to His name by being a blessing to everyone. We are to bless unbelievers by being a testimony of his grace and mercy – and to bless fellow believers as encouragers, partners, and equippers.

Be Worth Reproducing

Our constant aspiration should be to grow in our character, faith, fruit of the Spirit, and obedience. Such growth in discipleship transforms us into something that is desirable to reproduce. God is not interested in multiplying mediocrity. Hence, one of the first considerations for every disciple to consider as he/she begins such ministry is to spend time in introspection and if necessary, repentance. We must never become complacent or satisfied with the level of maturity and love and faith to which the Lord has already brought us. We must continually aspire to more fully and completely love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. One way we can pursue this is to structure our spiritual communities to provide what I like to call dual accountability. That is, accountability to obey the Lord, and accountability to pass on to others what we have received.

The spiritual economy differs from the earthly economy in that the spiritual economy is based on giving away what one has. God reveals more of Himself to us when we are faithful in sharing with others what we already know of Him. He gives more insight and revelation to those who are faithful in sharing with others what they already understand. He speaks to us more clearly when we obey what he has already spoken to us.

This means the most loving thing we can do for one another is to hold one another accountable for obeying what we learn from the Lord and to share it with others. This is not a matter of legalism, but of love. This is what we must do if we truly want the best for one another, the greatest spiritual blessing and insight, the deepest intimacy with our Father.

From a practical standpoint, this can be carried out in many ways, but the simplest is my favorite. At the end of each time of Bible discussion and prayer, in small groups each disciple spends time expressing to others in the group what the Lord is specifically speaking to him/her about and with whom they plan to have a spiritual discussion about the topic. The person(s) with whom they share might be unbelievers, in which case the conversation might be more pre-evangelistic or evangelistic in nature, or they might be believers in which case the conversation might be more for encouragement or equipping. The next time the group gathers together, each person shares how they did in obeying what the Lord had spoken to them and in sharing it with others. In such a setting, the entire group can be held accountable for being faithful in incorporating specific applications into their own lives and faithful in passing on to others the insights they are gleaning. This keeps every disciple constantly involved in either evangelizing the lost or helping to disciple fellow believers or both.

Rethinking Leadership

Therefore, since ministry is not only for the mature in Christ, but for all of us who follow Him, all of us are leaders in some sense of the word. In the church, we tend to think of leaders as those who serve in a role of one or more of the five-fold gifts in Ephesians r:11-12--apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers--or else in terms of the officers of the church--bishops/pastors, elders or deacons. We tend to have an attitude that leaders in the church must be mature believers. This view is fine as long as we remember that is only one type of leadership. In another sense, God has given each individual a sphere of influence. A poor, illiterate housewife in the developing world can be a leader for her children and neighbors. This type of “leadership” needs greater emphasis in the Kingdom of God today.

I like to think of this type of leadership in terms of the metaphor of a mother duck leading her ducklings. As they walk or swim single file, only the first duckling is following the mother duck. Each of the other ducklings is following the one preceding them in line. In order to lead a duckling like this, one does not have to be a mature duck, just one step ahead of another duckling. In this metaphor, it is important to realize there is only one Leader of leaders – Jesus. All the rest of us are simply ducklings. None of us are totally mature (to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ). We are all in process. However, this does not excuse us from the responsibility to lead those whom we can. We still have the responsibility to steward whatever leadership opportunities God has given us.

Helping Shape New Believers

The process of establishing a pattern of dual accountability involving each disciple in leadership begins with immediately guiding new believers to evangelize their own friends and family. As soon as someone decides to repent and follow Jesus, I like to tell them, “It is a great blessing to bring others into a relationship with Jesus. It is a greater blessing to start a new spiritual community. It is the greatest blessing to equip others to start new spiritual communities. Right now I want to help you have a blessing, a greater blessing, and the greatest blessing.”

At that point I ask them to make a list of one hundred people with whom they need to share the good news about Jesus. I ask them to select five to share with immediately. I then teach them some contextually appropriate way to share the gospel and have them practice five times, each time envisioning they are sharing with one of the five people on their list. I do the same thing in helping them prepare to share their testimony and practice it. This process takes at least two hours, but is well worth the time invested. When I finish, I set a time for them to meet back with me and send them out to share their faith. I instruct them to follow the same process I followed with them should any of the five people they share with decide to follow the Lord. Frequently, one or more people come to the Lord as a result and sometimes a new spiritual community (church) is born very quickly.

When I meet back with them, I model the dual accountability model and if they have not shared with five people and followed up with any who responded positively, then we go over the same material again and make sure they have all the preparation they need. This sets up a pattern for their spiritual lives. More responsibility and leadership are given to those who have been faithful in the small elements of responsibility they have already practiced. Small increments are important in this respect. This approach is most easily practiced in a small group setting, so if you are part of a larger church then you should offer such accountability structures as a subset of the large group meetings.

Self-Feeding

Every new disciple must also be equipped to be spiritually self-feeding in at least four aspects: Scripture, prayer, church life, and persecution and suffering. These are some of the primary ways God grows us to maturity.

In terms of being able to interpret and apply Scripture, this can most easily be done by teaching a series of questions that can be applied in any Scripture study. Generally, this will include questions of observation, interpretation and application. There are a number of sets of questions that can be used in this way, depending on the age or education level and the level of spiritual sophistication of the believers. The point is that after reading or hearing a passage of Scripture, every believer should be able to tell what it says, what it means, and the implications it has for his/her life. Clearly someone’s ability to do this and the depth at which they do it will increase over time, but the point is to establish a pattern for how they view and respond to Scripture.

Prayer is another key tool God uses to grow us into the likeness of Christ. Through prayer we speak to the Lord, hear from His heart and mind, minister to both believers and unbelievers, and more. Prayer is a teaching tool. It is an evangelism tool. In fact, praying for unbelievers in their presence can be one of the most powerful evangelistic tools that exists. It is often under-utilized. The best way to teach prayer to a new believer is by example reinforced by studying what the Bible says about prayer.

The church serves not only as a spiritual community, but also as the Body of Christ.  In Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4, the Bible expresses how we as members of the Body of Christ have differing gifts and abilities that are to function together in a coordinated fashion in order to build up the Body and bring it to maturity. Thus, for both individual and corporate growth and maturity, we must understand how this works and participate in it. This idea is supplemented by numerous “one another” passages in the New Testament. More
than fifty times we are told in Scripture to do something for one another in the Body. We need each other in order to grow.

Persecution and suffering are also venues for our spiritual growth and development. The Bible tells us that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). We know that we have an enemy who will also oppose us in many ways as we follow the Lord. New believers need to understand how God works to perfect our character, prove our faith, equip us for ministry, and provide a testimony for him through persecution and suffering. Being aware of this before it happens can help fend off discouragement and help us to be intentional about taking advantage of these opportunities rather than wasting them or responding to them inappropriately.

If a believer understands and can apply these basic opportunities for growth, along with the pattern of dual accountability we implement, then they can initiate an entire movement of new churches even if, for some reason they are separated from their spiritual community. They have the power of the Holy Spirit and access to Scripture along with these basic skills to move them toward maturity and equip them to bring others along. There is no way to stop such a movement.

Training Cycle

As believers increase in their competence in these areas, it is important to help them understand the phases of the training cycle so they know when and how to transition from modeling, to assisting, to watching, to leaving as they initiate work with new believers or new churches. This is a natural process by which they can help others grow into maturity as well, both individually and corporately.

I like to compare this process to teaching a child to ride a bicycle. Though we rarely think about it, the first step in a child learning to ride a bicycle is seeing someone else ride one. This only takes a moment. The purpose is to create awareness. In making disciples or planting churches, this can be an extremely quick process as well. But, it does not matter how good the model is; simply modeling will never train someone else to ride a bicycle. The learner must get on the seat and begin to pedal for themselves. This brings us to the second stage.

We need to begin to assist the beginner right away. This means the learner is on the seat and we are holding them up. They cannot do it without us, but from the first moments, we are trying to reduce their dependence on us. As soon as we believe they have a chance of maintaining their own balance and momentum, we release them. We must be willing to let them fall, as in learning it will happen repeatedly. We must not let our fear of them falling prevent us from letting go. That is part of the learning process. This stage of learning lasts a bit longer than the modeling stage, but it should still be kept as short as possible. I like to think in terms of getting through this stage in about three months in a church planting setting. During that time, I “shadow mentor,” modeling with the natural leaders (alone) in the new church what they should do when the entire group meets together. During this period I am covering the self-feeding skills mentioned earlier.

After assisting, it is time to enter the observation stage. This is a much longer phase, often taking many years. It is carried out at arm’s length, however, and is much more occasional in nature. One person can be observing multiple churches at the same time. When someone learns to ride a bicycle they must be able to mount, dismount, steer, brake, understand the rules of the road and know when and where it is safe to ride. These skills take some time to learn. It is not safe to let a child ride on his/her own until these skills are mastered. In the New Testament we see the apostle Paul use this cycle. He would model and assist with new churches on his missionary journey as he entered cities for the first time. This was a very brief process in all the churches except for Corinth (eighteen months) and Ephesus (three years). The observation stage, however, lasted for many years. He would come for repeat visits, send coworkers to check on things, write letters, etc. He needed to be sure the churches were practicing and passing on what they had received.

Once the basic skills are learned, it is time for the mentor to exit. It is not only embarrassing, but also inconvenient, and impractical for a teacher to always be present in order for someone to ride a bicycle. The same is true spiritually. As soon as possible, new believers and new churches should be at the point of being producers rather than merely consumers. Spiritual reproduction should be happening and, in fact, is one good indicator that it is time to consider moving to the next phase. Model for the first generation, assist while they model for the second generation, watch for the third generation and if the other indicators look good, then it is time to leave. We see Paul formally leave the Ephesian church in Acts 20:17-38. It is a touching scene that demonstrates when leaving becomes appropriate and not irresponsible.

Entering New Communities

New disciples and new churches also need to grow in their ability to see where the church is not. This is where they can begin to understand how to cross cultures and other boundaries in order to make disciples of all nations (peoples). I like to use maps with known churches indicated with pushpins. This can begin to sensitize people to geographic gaps. Very soon I also begin to introduce concepts of gaps in terms of language, socioeconomic levels, education levels, ethnicity, and so on. This helps new believers begin to look for opportunities to reach out to the people and places in the greatest spiritual darkness.

It is important to model biblical approaches in ministry as well as to teach them. For example, people need to understand how to look for and identify a “man of peace” as they enter new communities. This term comes from Matthew 10 and Luke 10 when Jesus is giving instructions to His disciples. Essentially, a man of peace is someone who is responsive, has a circle of influence and will open the door to that circle. Of course, a person of peace can sometimes be a woman!  Going in a needy state can often uncover a person of peace as they offer assistance. One of my favorite ways of locating such a person is to begin a spiritual conversation. If someone indicates interest, rather than simply continuing to talk with them, I will inquire as to whether or not they know of others who might be interested in discussing such matters. If they do, I ask if they would be willing to gather them. If they are willing, the chances are quite strong that I have found a person of peace.

There are practical advantages to finding a person of peace. First, it is more effective to group unbelievers and win them rather than win individual converts and then group them. The new spiritual communities which are formed tend to be more durable and resilient, tend to function more smoothly, have higher trust levels, and tend to mature more quickly. If we are not sure whether we have found a person of peace, we should still see if we can assist a new believer or seeker to establish a new church from among their own network of relationships rather than automatically adding them to an existing church. This can be done naturally when we have them begin sharing their new faith with their list of one hundred people who need to know the Lord. The pattern that was used in Acts, and still works well today, is that new believers are gathered into new spiritual communities with new leaders raised up from among them. Our natural tendency is to add new converts to existing churches, which results in a hindrance with regard to multiplication of disciples and churches.

Conclusion

When basic elements such as those mentioned in this article are combined, God frequently moves in remarkable ways and the resulting disciples and churches seem to be especially fruitful and more resistant to false teaching. Also, you will often see a supernatural impetus to take the gospel where it has not gone, and therefore unengaged people groups around the new churches quickly gain access to the gospel. The pattern of involving every disciple to live out and share their faith and be involved in leading others is key. We can do this with new believers through helping them learn to feed themselves spiritually in a developmental way through using the training cycle. This can be done in such a way that the disciples do this beyond their own community and relationships. These simple and biblical principles can go a long way toward helping you equip new believers to become catalysts in planting rapidly reproducing new churches.

This is an article from the May-June 2017 issue: The Zume Project

Eyes to See Where the Kingdom is Not

Eyes to See Where the Kingdom is Not

Every disciple needs to be equipped to have eyes to see where the Kingdom is not. While that probably seems a bit of a strange concept to you, bear with me for just a few moments.

We are naturally wired to look at what is. Our eyes are drawn to the things that actually exist; subsequently, we give little thought to what does not . We need to develop eyes to see where the Kingdom is yet to exist.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When we pray in this way, we’re acknowledging that there is a gap between what is and what God intends. If we are to be obedient Kingdom citizens, we must be concerned with closing that gap!

Have you ever considered that God has favorites? The Bible describes them as the last, the least, and the lost. Throughout the Old Testament, God spoke of the proper treatment of widows and orphans. (Exodus 22:22; Psalm 68:5, 146:9, 82:3) In the New Testament, he describes a pure and faultless religion as one that “looks after orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1:27). In these and many other passages the Father is highlighting the need to care for those who need the most care! We need to be concerned about the gaps, the places where the gospel is the least accessible. This focus on the last, the least, and the lost is having eyes to see where the Kingdom is not.

Take a map of your community and pinpoint every area where a church currently exists. Now look at the blank spaces that remain. Those blank spaces indicate where churches are still needed and disciples need to be made. When you begin to think geographically like this, you can also start to identify other characteristics that exist within these areas. For example, are there any particular socio-economic needs or ethno-linguistic groups? Who are the people in those areas that need the good news of the Kingdom more than anyone else? How can we build bridges into those communities?

Just as Jesus modeled, every believer needs to be equipped to have the kind of eyes that look for opportunities to enter new places and engage new people groups in order to meet the greatest needs so that God’s desire will be accomplished on earth as it is in Heaven!

This is an article from the May-June 2017 issue: The Zume Project

The Current State of America

The Current State of America

There are two sides to every story.  Life eventually teaches all of us that.  It is with this perspective that I want to pull back the curtain and take a look into the state of Christianity in America. As some have already looked into the state of the Church in America, they may have already abandoned all hope and are just waiting for Christ's return with the few believers they see around them. Still, others may see a more hopeful picture of revival, renewal, and reformation.

It is no secret that the number of Christians in America is declining.  In 1990, 86% of Americans identified themselves as Christians. By 2014 that number dropped to 70.6%.   However, this is the number of “self-identifying Christians” and tells us nothing of the true picture of people who are actually followers of Jesus. Those who regularly attend some kind of religious service is also now down to less than 20%...but remember, this stat is for all religious services. [1]

Recent research states that there are now 195 million non-churched people in America, making America one of the top four largest “unchurched” geopolitical nations in the world. In fact, there are approximately 360 unreached people groups living within America. 

About 23% of the US population are “nones,” up from 16% in 2007. “Nones” are people who don’t believe in anything in particular. Many of them were even at one point attenders of church, or at least born into a nominal Christian family.[2]

During the last ten years, membership of all Protestant denominations declined by 9.5%, while the national population increased by 11.4%.  Also, in spite of the rise of “mega-churches,” no county in America has a greater church population than it did ten years ago. This is probably because much of the growth in larger churches is from transfer growth, as less than 2% of Christians share their faith and 96% of church growth is from transfer growth or kids being born into the church.[3]

Obviously, Christianity is not even close to keeping up with the population growth of America. What was once a Christian nation with a Christian culture has now become an unchurched nation. For the most part, many people, especially young people, view church as boring and irrelevant to their lives. One of the reasons for this is that as Western Christians and our fascination with learning, we have focused too much on knowledge. Most Christians unfortunately look at Christianity as a set of doctrinal beliefs and things to know about, rather than as a lifestyle of following Christ and obeying his commands.

There is, however, a brighter picture to this story, another side of the coin as one might say.  While people are leaving the church in droves, many of them are people who “self-identify” as Christians yet don’t really have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  They are the “cultural Christians” or the “nominal Christians.”

If one were to look at the state of Evangelicals in the US, the picture is not as dim.  Over the past seven years, evangelicals have lost less than 1 percent of their share of the population, holding steady at about 1 in 4 American adults (25.4% in 2014, vs. 26.3% in 2007) and preserving their status as the nation’s largest religious group. Evangelicals now also make up 55% of the nation’s protestant church members.[4]

Another alarming statistic is that around 3,500 to 4,000 churches are closing their doors every year. However, according to estimates from a Nashville-based research organization with input from 34 denominational statisticians, more than 4,000 new churches opened their doors in 2014, outpacing the 3,700 that closed.[5]  While older, stale denominations have lost touch with the younger generations, all is not lost. Churches are being started, and in 2014, the net total of churches was actually greater than the year before! 

This also says nothing of the millions of Americans who are starting smaller churches and making disciples in their homes or offices. According to the American pollster George Barna, as many as 30,000 house churches were established as of 2009, and it is estimated 6-12 million Americans attend them.[6]  Some house church networks (or simple churches) are seeing multiplication of their churches at an exponential rate.  So this stat in 2009 could be largely out of date and much higher now in the year 2016. Many of these people might also not be counted in denominational polls. 

So, while nominal Christians are dropping off and the rise of the “nones” is getting larger, there is still so much hope!  There is a large group of committed Christians in our country still. Their numbers are not falling drastically, and in fact, could be growing at a much faster pace than we think!  These committed followers of Jesus view being a Christian as a lifestyle of following Jesus and obeying His commands out of love for Him.  The challenge is that, as humans, we can’t measure this statistic.  Only God knows who truly belongs to him and who doesn’t. As we look at the big picture of church growth in America, God is on the move and is drawing people to Himself—maybe just not in the conventional ways we are used to or trying to see him in. 


[1] J. D. Payne, Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places. 

This is an article from the May-June 2017 issue: The Zume Project

Every Nation

Bless God Together

Every Nation

Many of you may know the Bible exceptionally well and may know its themes, its historical stories, and its teachings, but what you may not know is there is a continuous thread running from Genesis to Revelation tying the whole biblical narrative together. This single thread is imperative to know if we want to understand our response and our role as God’s children in this world. I want to give you a quick flyover of this thread. This is by no means exhaustive, but once you see this thread you will begin to see it all over Scripture everywhere you read from here on out.

Old Testament

So, naturally, we are going to start in the beginning with Genesis. In the beginning God created everything. The heavens. The earth. He breathed out stars. He spoke, and planets and galaxies came into existence. He created everything in the world. The trees. The waters. The animals. And then He came to the pinnacle of His creation.

Look here in Genesis 1:27 and the beginning of verse 28. Read this. What does it say?

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

Really? Are God’s first words and commands to His greatest creation, “Procreate over all the earth?” You would think He would say something more significant… Well, look again, because that is precisely what He does.  Whom does God say He makes them in the image of?

He makes man and woman in His own image.

So what God is commanding is to spread His image over all the earth. And God blessed them to this end. God wants His image and His glory to cover the entire earth. God blessed Adam and Eve, so they could bless the whole earth, so the whole earth would bless God together. In this God is most glorified.

In fact, one could make a case for Habakkuk 2:14 to be the thesis of the Bible; it says, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

This is a promise. He will do it. It will happen.

So how did Adam and Eve do? They obeyed this command and the earth was filled with the glory of the Lord, right? I wish…they didn’t even make it out of the third chapter without messing it all up! When sin entered into the world, God’s image was stained and tainted within them and they no longer could multiply God’s image over all the earth perfectly. This is not good. It got so ugly, in fact, that by Noah’s time, God’s wrath was devastatingly poured on all men, and He started over. Started again with Noah and his family. And guess what the first thing is that God told Noah?

No joke. He said: “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Genesis 9:1 The exact same command He gave to Adam and Eve.

Multiply my image over all the earth.

As God blessed Adam, he now blessed Noah, so that he could bless the whole earth, so the whole earth could bless God together. In this God is most glorified.

And that went well for a while, until the tower of Babel, when the people of the earth went completely against God’s command…Here’s what they foolishly said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11: 4

This is direct opposition of God’s command. God said to make HIS name great and multiply HIS image over all the earth. Now the people are saying, “Let’s make a name for ourselves,” and “Let’s not go throughout the whole earth.” God frustrated their plans and scattered them to the nations to continue His eternal plan.

Then we get to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, an absolutely critical passage in understanding the thread of the Bible.

“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”

God blessed Abraham, so that he would not just bless his own nation, but all the families of the earth, so they would all bless God together. In this God is most glorified.

And once again, this went well for a while, but then the Hebrew nation, Israel, was enslaved by the kingdom of Egypt. Yet God delivered Israel out of Egypt’s hand, but here is what we often miss….

“A mixed multitude went up with them.” Exodus 12:38

God did not just rescue Israel, but ALL who trusted in Yahweh—including Egyptians.

 

We think the Old Testament is all about Israel, which, in a way, it is--but why? What is Israel's role? Exodus 19:5-6 has the answer.

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

What does it mean that Israel’s role was to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation”? A priest’s role was to go before God on behalf of the people and before the people on behalf of God. Therefore, Israel’s role was to act as priest on behalf of all the nations whom God loved and was fervently pursuing!

God blessed Israel, so they would bless all of the nations, so they would all bless God together. In this God is most glorified.

But Israel didn’t get it. They thought they were the special ones, chosen by God as a Holy nation, so they could reject and kill the rest of the nations. The Psalms, the Prophets, the Old Testament are full of God’s unending love for all of the nations.

He wanted the earth to be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea!

The prophet Isaiah made this point loud and clear when he said in Isaiah 56:3-8:

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say,“The LORD will surely separate me from his people;” and let not the eunuch say,“Behold, I am a dry tree.”For thus says the LORD:“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,“I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”

Out of God’s rich mercy and abundant love, He blessed Adam. He blessed Noah. He blessed Abraham, He blessed Israel, so that every nation and family on earth would be blessed, so all nations would bless God’s name.  In this God is most glorified.

Are you beginning to see it? Think of it as a triangle.

New Testament

So remember, God’s image even at this point is still stained. As His image is spreading over the whole earth, His people are only temporarily covered by imperfect blood sacrifices to cover their sins…waiting for the fullness of time, for the perfect sacrifice.

At the fullness of time, Jesus came—the Word, God in the flesh—and by becoming a perfect, sinless sacrifice for sins, He restored our relationship with the Father that Adam enjoyed in the beginning. He destroyed death, Satan, and sin forever.  God never gave up. He never dismissed for good our shortcomings. He kept coming. Kept giving mercy. Violently loved through our continual disobedience.

God, in ultimate fashion, bankrupted Heaven by giving His one and only Son—His most treasured possession—to win His children back, to destroy the enemy, and to receive matchless glory! As He did this, God’s image in mankind was restored in His people who trusted in Him, being filled with His very Spirit.

Now here is what is amazing: Guess what Jesus’ command to His people was after His image was restored?

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Did you catch that? Do you see it?!

As He restored His image, He tells His people to multiply HIS IMAGE IN ALL THE NATIONS. This is the exact command given from the very beginning.

So now, God has blessed His church, to bless all the nations, so all nations would bless God together. In this God is most glorified.

So, multiplying the image of God is exactly what his disciples —Peter, Paul and the rest of them until present day—did. Even as Paul told Timothy in his second letter to him, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

It gets better. God says to his church, just like he said to Israel, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…”.

We are not on earth to simply “be happy” that we are the chosen nation of God, His chosen church. This was Israel’s common misunderstanding. We are His chosen people, His priests, because we are called to go before God on behalf of all the nations and before the nations on behalf of God!

God blessed Adam. He blessed Noah. He blessed Abraham. He blessed Israel. He blessed His church. And now He has blessed YOU, so that you will bless all the nations, so all nations will bless God together! In this God is most glorified.

So here we are today with the same command. We have an opportunity to respond to the Father’s radical love and glory. We have an opportunity to stand together as the church, to unite, to take His glorious message of salvation to all the nations. We are identified fully with Jesus, filled with His Spirit, carriers of His image, ambassadors from a better country, to bless the nations so that all of us, every tongue, tribe, and nation can worship, bless, and glorify Jesus forever! We get to partner with our Father, listen to Him, obey Him, and watch Him move with power over all the earth!

As my friend Todd Ahrend, founder of the Traveling Team, famously says, “It’s time to put our YES on the table.” We are all carrying a “yes” in our hands. Will we hold it to ourselves or will we with white hot love for our Good Savior put our “yes” on the table and run with boldness and perseverance for the rest of our race? Let’s hasten the day of Jesus Christ!

Let’s finish this way.

If this is true, then this thread will run all the way into Revelation, right?

Let’s look in Revelation 7:9-12, a beautiful picture into the future that God has revealed to John:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

God Will do it. He has promised He will.

The fulfillment of Habakkuk 2:14 and all of God's promises are seen here. God blessed His people, and they blessed the whole world, so we could all bless God together.

This is the Story of His Glory. Will we be a part of His story or try to write our own narrative and try to make our own name great?

The thread of the Bible is understanding that God has blessed His people, so they may bless all the families of the earth, of every nation, so we can all one day bless God together! Are you willing to be a part of His Story? Are you ready to join His vision?

In this God is most glorified.

This is an article from the May-June 2017 issue: The Zume Project

The Zúme Project

its uniqueness and process

The Zúme Project

Luke 5 teaches us to listen to Jesus as we “launch out into the deep” for a great catch. As the disciples listened to Jesus and obeyed as he told them where to throw their nets, the ended up with more than they could handle on their own. They had to call out to the other boats to help with the catch without caring who would get the credit. It is amazing to think of the power of unity as many like-minded ministries with similar strategies and processes are coming together like never before. The Zúme Project has not reinvented any methods. In fact, many organizations and ministries use training methods that are similar to the training that Zúme uses. However, in a very real way, Zúme is a unifying tool that is calling out to all the other boats to come and catch the fish together.

The Zúme Project is the only online discipleship course that is raising up laborers to make disciples who make more disciples and is not owned or run by any specific ministry. Instead, this open-handed approach is a gift and a tool for ministries, churches, organizations, and families to use and to learn how to make disciples who make disciples in their own areas. The Zúme Project is also unique in that it has the ability to connect to and train people who otherwise would have no contact to live disciple-making coaches. It will have mapping features to show where groups are forming (and where they are yet to be formed).

Throughout this course, those who are in the groups will be matched up with live coaches in their regions who will walk with them on their journey. So, in essence, this tool will filter for people of peace (Luke 10) and filter out those who drop off early.

There are roughly 75,000 census tracts in America and the goal is to be in every one.

At the completion of the course, each group will be challenged to start another simple church, so the vision is to see over 150,000 healthy, simple churches started within a short amount of time.

Here is a brief overview of what you will experience when you go to the Zume Project website to get involved.

USER PROCESS

1.    SIGN UP

Go to http://www.zumeproject.com

Scroll down and fill in your first and last name.

Fill in your email address.

Create a password for your account and then re-enter it.

Click on “Sign Up.”

An email will be sent to you to confirm and activate your account.

In your email, click on the link that is provided. This link will redirect you back to the Zúme site and you will be logged in.

2.   INVITE YOUR FRIENDS

Fill in your address in the spaces provided and then click “Next.”

Fill in your group’s name (Ex: J Smith’s Home or Brown County Group).

Invite some friends or family that you would like to join you for the Zúme Project by filling in their email addresses. (To add more invites click on “Invite more”).

Communicate to your friends and family to follow the prompts in their email by clicking on the link they received. They will be automatically added to your group.

Confirm and activate your group by clicking on “START FIRST SESSION.”

3.   HOST A TRAINING

Set a time and date for your group to regularly get together for the duration of the Zúme Project.

When you gather together, log in and go to SESSION 01. Click on “Start Session.”

You will be prompted to download the Zúme Guidebook. We recommend you have this printed for your group as they arrive for the first meeting.

After downloaded, click on “Next.”

Begin with a time of prayer before starting your journey together.

Click on “Next.”

Watch the first video and spend time in discussion with your group.

When you are finished, click “Next.”

Continue to watch and discuss the videos in Session 1 followed by clicking “Next” as you move through the session.

In the “Practice” section, spend some time practicing what you have learned (the activity will be provided here and in all future sessions).

In the “Plan Together” section, you will go over the week’s assignments.

Finish your time in prayer together.

Click on “Complete Session.”

Like Session 1, the following sessions will have the same simple pattern to follow as you are hosting the Zúme training.

4.   3-MONTH COMMITMENT PLAN

In the final session (Session 09), you will be asked to fill out a “3-month plan.” (This is a tool that will help    you be intentional in the disciple-making lifestyle.)

Spend at least a half hour praying and listening to God as you fill out your 3-month plan that is provided in the Zúme Guidebook.

Take turns sharing your 3-Month Plans with each other. Take time to ask questions about things you          might not understand about plans and how the others will meet their commitments. Ask them to      do the same for you and your plan.

Find a training partner(s) that is willing to check in with you to report on progress and challenges, and to ask questions after 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 12 weeks. Commit to doing the same for them.

Discuss and develop a group plan for starting at least two (2) new 3/3 Groups or Zúme Training Groups in your area. The goal is to start Simple Churches that multiply. 3/3 Groups and Zúme Training Groups are two ways to do that.

5.   CONNECTING WITH LIVE COACHES

Every group will be assigned a live coach who will help mentor them during the disciple-making process                    and help keep them accountable.

Make sure all your group members know how to contact the Zúme Coach that’s been assigned to them  in case anyone has questions or needs more training. Remember to share your 3-Month Plan with your  Coach, so they understand your goals.

6.   ADVANCED TRAINING

Once you have completed the first 9 sessions and have seen growth in your networks, continue on to the Advanced Training in “Session 10”.

In this advanced training session, we’ll take a look at how we can level-up our Coaching Strengths with a quick checklist assessment. We’ll learn how Leadership in Networks allows a growing group of small churches to work together to accomplish even more. And we’ll learn how to develop Peer Mentoring Groups that take leaders to a whole new level of growth.

This is an article from the May-June 2017 issue: The Zume Project

The Essential Role of Vision-Casting in Movements

The Essential Role of Vision-Casting in Movements

At the end of a full day of training in a remote house church in Asia, the breakthrough came. I had been sharing deeply from my heart about God’s heart for his kingdom to come fully to every lost community and people group. At the core of this vision was explaining the essence of a seed, just as Jesus used seeds in giving vision to His disciples of how the kingdom grows.

The challenge with my group was to convey to these rural believers the idea of kingdom multiplication. The concept that each disciple could bear fruit thirty, sixty and a hundred times, and then that the next generation of disciples they trained could do the same, just wasn’t sinking in. It was contrary to their discipleship paradigm.

The pastor’s 12-year-old son, soaking up every word, suddenly dashed out of the room. A few minutes later, he rushed back in holding a golden stalk of wheat in his hand. In front of the group, he presented it to me. “Brother Steve, this is what you mean! Each of these seeds will produce many more seeds which will produce many more seeds!”

In that same hour [Jesus] rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Luke 10:21, ESV)

Aha’s spread across the room. We were finally on a path toward a kingdom movement. And now the group was ready for basic equipping and tools to walk that path. But only because the vision for kingdom multiplication was clear at last. The Father’s heart was now inspiring a new level of biblical faith. That stalk of wheat became a cherished possession for years to come.

As we launch disciples toward kingdom movements, vision is the key ingredient to turn them from the status quo to God’s agenda. In the early days with a new group of believers, I find myself spending a third or even half of every meeting just building in them faith for what is on God’s heart—His vision. One group that I trained for one year in church planting movement (CPM) strategies still wasn’t multiplying. A year later, as I was casting vision, the most fruitful person in the group exclaimed, “Oh! That’s what you mean!” Paradigms are hard to break, and vision-casting is essential in that process.

The Most Misunderstood and Most Important Element of Multiplying Discipleship

Perhaps the most misunderstood element in a multiplying discipleship process is the role of casting vision on a regular basis. While it is the most misunderstood element, it is also the most important element for building a movement.

If I give a man a screwdriver and tell him to pound a nail into a board, he will quit in frustration. But if there is a million-dollar prize, he will find a way to pound that nail in with a screwdriver. It would be far better for me to give him a hammer. But he will find a way regardless because of the motivation of his heart.

In CPMs, a reproducing discipleship process is at the core of the equipping process, and vision-casting is at the center of it. We are giving disciples a vision of what God wants to do. We are changing their internal motivations. It is important for us to give them effective tools (e.g. the hammer). But if the vision is strong enough, they will find a way to follow God’s leading even with less effective tools.

Scripture exhorts leaders to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12), but often we only convey mechanics without actually giving them the confidence and competence to make disciples who can make disciples.

To address that, kingdom movements around the world often use variations of a three-thirds process in their weekly discipleship meetings. In the first third, disciples look back to evaluate how they did obeying God through 1) personal care, 2) worship/praise, 3) loving accountability and 4) vision-casting. In the middle third of their meeting, they will look up to ask God what He wants to speak to them through the 5) Word of God. In the final third, they will look ahead to determine how to obey God and how to make disciples who can make disciples. To prepare for that, they will often 6) practice what they will share with those they train as well as 7) set goals based on what God told them and re-commission each other in prayer.

The element of the three-thirds process I am most often asked about is vision-casting. Because it is so misunderstood, it is the most poorly implemented element of the reproducing discipleship process. Its absence is perhaps the most common reason why discipleship groups and churches fail to multiply.

What Vision-Casting is Not

Frequently I am asked to observe a group to give feedback to the leader about their implementation of the three thirds. In one meeting, the leader led the group through a time of personal care, worship and accountability. The meeting was limping along but then almost ground to a halt in terms of any momentum. The leader turned to a group member and said, “John, would you now read our vision statement?”

John read the group’s one-line vision statement in a monotone voice. Everyone nodded. That was it. With vision-casting checked off the list the leader moved on to the second third—Bible study.

I was stunned. No inspiring each other toward faith in what God wants to do. No passionate cries to hang in there. No encouragement to endure and press into the vision.

The meeting limped to its conclusion. In the feedback, I explained to the leader that what I had just observed was a sterile classroom experience, not a meeting of the body of Christ. It was mere mechanics devoid of the powerful presence of the Spirit. It was not an interaction with God but following a form they felt would multiply.

  • Vision-casting is not reciting a vision statement.
  • Vision-casting is not a canned monologue that ignores that week’s needs.
  • Vision-casting is not a sterile enterprise that we can check off our list.
  • Vision-casting is not pumping a group to do something that God does not want to do.

What Vision-Casting Is

Vision-casting is evaluating where a group is and then inspiring them toward faith in our Heavenly Father’s heart.

It is not unlike a coach who speaks to his team at halftime. If they are losing, he inspires them to work together to win. If they are winning, he cautions them against slacking off. In the few minutes as the first half winds down and on the walk to the locker room, he is composing his thoughts to speak an apt word that will inspire his team to action.

To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is! (Prov. 15:23, ESV)

Vision-casting is giving an encouraging word to fellow disciples in a way that will remind them of God’s heart to work in them and through them. It builds faith in them to act in alignment with how God is acting. It does not incite them to act in a way that is contrary to God and His Word.

Built around the Father’s Heart

Vision-casting follows this progression:

1.  What is Father’s heart for this community, this group and this person (the vision)?

2.  Where is this group or person in terms of pursuing His heart?

  • Is the vision of Father’s heart clear?
  • Are they discouraged?
  • Are they confused?
  • Do they lack faith?
  • Are they over-confident or confident in in their flesh?

3.  What word can I share that will inspire them to align their current situation to God’s heart?

The crux of this process is knowing our heavenly Father’s heart. What is his vision for our community and our circle of relationships? How does He want to equip us and use us in this process? What is God’s will, and how do I line up my life to it?

When we understand God’s heart—His intentions—and then resolve to act based upon His heart, that is faith. Vision-casting is always about building biblical faith in those we disciple.

Apt for that Moment

As we understand God’s heart, then we inspire those we train in a way that is apt for the moment. In times of discouragement, we encourage. When they are faithless, we impart faith. When they are myopic, we share big vision. When they are over-confident, we share a sobering word. When they are confused, we give clarity.

Before any meeting with a group or individual, I enter a prayerful preparation process. Though I might have planned to share a specific vision-casting element for that week, I stop to ask Father what encouraging word they need. Sometimes it is what I have planned. Sometimes the group needs to hear something different. Just as a coach anticipated sharing a particular pep talk at halftime but changes it based on circumstances, so also we vary what we share depending on the needs of the week.

Bottom line, we ask: “What encouraging or inspiring word do they need this week? What will build vision in them?” If we meet with these disciples regularly, it doesn’t have to be a long message—just five or ten minutes. And we encourage them to do the same thing with those they disciple.

Tool-Belt Built from Word, Works and Wineskins

Even so, many disciple-makers are at a loss for how to cast vision. Since we are trying to build faith in Father’s heart, then we must find inspiring messages from places that line up with His heart. Here are the three most common sources:

Word of God: God’s heart is seen throughout Scripture. Comb the Word to find appropriate ways to help disciples align their attitudes and actions to what He says. Be careful to interpret the Word in context and to apply it as it was meant. Messages that do not exegete God’s Word faithfully will not enable believers to follow God’s heart but set them up for defeat.

Works of God: The ways in which God has worked in history and around us today show us what He is like. Sharing short testimonies of what God has done or is doing can build faith in us that He is still at work in places like ours and in people like us.

Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. (Ps. 111:2)

Wineskins: Methods and models that flexibly cooperate with the work of the Spirit (Mt. 9:17) offer practical encouragement and pathways for us to follow. Hearing someone share a breakthrough of how he effectively shared the gospel with a post-modern can encourage us to do the same.

Each time we meet with a group of believers, we want to give them a five, or ten-minute inspiring word built from these sources. If it is the first time we meet with a group, we will spend much more time on the vision God has for them.

Helpful in this process is to build a tool-belt of short vision-casting messages. If you have ten to twenty of these in your tool-belt, you are ready in-season and out for a multitude of situations that will arise from week to week. Doubtless you will share others as you prepare each week, but these will keep you ready always. Keep them short, vivid and memorable. In this way, our fellow believers can call them to mind when they are discouraged and can share these words with others.

Spoken in Passionate Sincerity

The real question is whether we believe what we are sharing. Are we speaking these words with sincerity or do we appear as peddlers?

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Co. 2:17)

Paul is referring to sellers who would stack the good-looking fruit on top and put the sub-par fruit (which they would sell) underneath. Do we present a false picture of God’s heart? Do we say one thing but believe another? Instead, we must inspire others because we are convinced that this is the nature of our Father. If so, then we must speak with passion, exhorting the group to believe and respond.

Vision for a Kingdom
Movement

Sometimes, you are the only person speaking into the lives of others that God wants to build a kingdom movement through them. Sometimes it is the vision you keep imparting that keeps them on the less-traveled path. The enemy is whispering in their ears, “Not here, not now and not through you!”

Your job is to speak the words of the Father to them. Soon you will be joined by others speaking similar messages until eventually we are surrounded by an army of faith.

It is your role to inspire them.

It is your role to build faith in them.

Perhaps no one else will.

This is an article from the May-June 2017 issue: The Zume Project

I Need Help and You Probably Do Too

I Need Help and You  Probably Do Too

For years I have said there is a massive amount of information available on the internet and some of it is true!

The information we have at our fingertips (literally) is staggering. When my wife and I joined the staff of the USCWM (now Frontier Ventures) almost 35 years ago, we had a much harder time knowing what was happening around the world. Learning about breakthroughs did not happen in seconds. We depended, in part, on global workers coming through our facilities and sharing with us. For example, we had no idea what was happening with the growth of the church in China. When we started to hear it and share it, no one believed it.

How different it is now. Accessing and sharing information for our work and ministry is much easier, but comes with new challenges. Sometimes we believe things that aren’t true! There is not only falsehood, but also misleading information—which can be more dangerous. Then, there is deception, which is a problem because we do not realize it is happening. But distraction may be the most destructive by-product of the “internet age” for committed believers—again, because we don’t realize it is happening.

I don’t spend much time with social media. Don’t tell anyone, but I use it to share vision and insights and to connect with our family and local church. Since I am a visual person, I am easily distracted. As I have gotten older, I have become even more distractible. For instance, I might reach for my phone to check the weather before a bike ride. Then I notice an email that needs a reply—which I had forgotten about because of some other distraction! By now, I’ve forgotten why I picked up my phone at all. The impulse nature of “always-on information” and a world that is constantly connected socially (at some level) has changed how we work, relate and mobilize.

That last word—mobilize—is why I write about all this in MF. We need to understand what is happening and see where tools like smart phones are good and where we need to challenge their negative aspects. How does this impact mobilizing the next generation globally? Here are a few reflections to suggest what we do about it.

  • We loose the ability to focus on a single task. While this is different for each generation, many of us older mobilizers wonder if younger “digital natives” will be able to focus on anything but their phones…say, on language learning with real people they don’t know?

Just this morning, while traveling, I was reading my Bible on my phone. And, sure enough, just as I was beginning to think more deeply about Paul’s talk to the Ephesian elders, I have a notification cover part of my screen. I have found that deep study of the Word takes time and focus, which is harder and harder to fit in. I fear for those who have never tried. I can (and do) turn off Notifications sometimes. My phone is hardly ever in our bedroom. Yet I realize that to “disconnect” can be a challenge when we feel a pull to keep up on what people are interested in. Social media can be a great way to network and connect people in new ways.

  • We can shape our image so we look “right” to our friends or the world. But, in the process, do we deceive ourselves about ourselves—who we are, what we do? Are we thinking about how we come across and doing things specifically to look good (however we define that) to others? This could also drive some to look more “spiritual” as well as “cool.” Yet either way, motivations need to be considered carefully. Of course, this happens in real face-to-face life also!
     
  • Time for social media seems unlimited. We all know people who post all the time. It may be helpful for them to think through and process things. Actually connecting via social media or in person can be an effective tool for ministry. But it must be controlled like any area of our lives.

We must try and focus our use of these tools and think through our patterns prayerfully. We know we need to filter information, work at ignoring innocent distractions and avoid certain ungodly or sinful things.

Most of the valuable things in a Godward life are hard and require attention. There is a massive amount of information available to us, but the good in it may be distracting us from the best. I strongly encourage you to be mindful—and pray—whenever you pick up your phone.

Please add your thoughts and comments on this article below.

This is an article from the Mar-Apr 2017 issue: Networks

Getting Past The Myths of Partnering

Getting Past The Myths of Partnering

Just a few key things can make the difference between a distinctive, excellent organization and an average, ordinary one.  These might be specific core values or a particular focus. But in 21st century ministry, it has to include the commitment and ability to partner well with others.  Not surprisingly, partnership and collaboration  are now major buzz words in the mission enterprise.

Organizations and businesses are using collaboration tools to solve internal challenges of redundancy and external problems of risk and resource scarcity.  Recent polls and trends show that inner organizational collaboration tops the list of organizational priorities.  Everyone is seeking to decrease costs and increase income. In addition, external partnering with other agencies can help elicit innovation and achieve even greater outcomes.

Why is partnering even more important in missions today?  “For us, the main reason is that the fresh challenges we are facing – whether developing organizational strategy or responding to the accelerated change in our world – are more complex than they have ever been,” one senior missions CEO told me. “They seem to require a variety of new skill sets, perspectives, and approaches and need a lot of pieces to come together smoothly for meaningful success.”

Most leaders apparently want to be involved in partnership (or at least they say they do).  The frustration many feel is that they just do not know how to move it forward.  Your organization may be considering a new partnership or seeking to expand and deepen an existing partnership.  In either case, your next steps derive from your operating assumptions.

So, before you jump off the partnering cliff (or even if you already have), keep in mind these four myths of partnering in order to make sure you don’t end up in dangerous waters.

Myth #1: Collaboration and Partnering
is New

Collaboration has existed since early man learned to hunt in groups.  Partnering is not new yet a lot of hype suggests it is just now being introduced (especially internally with web-based tools).  The reality is that employees have collaborated daily at the water cooler, at lunch, in the office, and by email.  It just wasn’t named.

Though internal collaboration is not new, what is new are the means and tools that employees can use to collaborate with one another.  Now, an employee can easily pull together a private group or online community to work together on a project, as opposed to sending emails back and forth.  That same approach, of course, is working externally, too, as web-based document sharing has assisted in joint planning, the execution of events, and follow up strategies.

In field-based efforts, American leaders are beginning to mature in partnering as they increasingly learn to listen.  Instead of merely viewing partnering as “here’s our project, come partner with us to achieve it,” they learn what collectively can be done to address situations that individual organizations cannot solve.  The additional humility required for shared leadership, reduced control, and openness to discovering past and current mistakes is challenging.  As one of my close non-western colleagues told me, there is a reason that even in a partnership like NATO, Americans refuse to let any other nation lead their troops.  Are we open to participation without having direct leadership?

 

Myth #2: Everyone Knows What Partnering Means

One of the big challenges in 21st Century partnering is that we tend to use the term to mean a variety of different things.  Partnering and collaboration needs to mean more than merely finding indigenous and local leaders (partners) to help expand your program.  It is also more than identifying and growing your list of financial donors (partners).  It is exploring and undertaking with like-minded groups what you can do together that you cannot do alone.  Partnering can be represented by a continuum (see graphic) that includes everything from simply connecting to intense project cooperation.  For example, if some groups find it difficult to collaborate on church planting, they can work together on less involved projects. Understanding where you are on the continuum can widely expand the possibilities for partnership – a key component in seeing real results.

 

Myth #3: Discover the Right Model and It Will Work

There is no magic formula or one particular model that works for partnering. No turn by turn GPS to look at for instructions.  Every partnership and every collaborative effort is different because the people and the context are different.  Performance and results are more directly related to long-term values and strategies like taking substantial time to build relationships and earn trust.  Western leaders tend to think trust comes naturally, when in reality, there are few short cuts, particularly when working in multi-cultural settings.  Trust allows us to learn the sophistication needed to embrace inevitable conflicts, and to appropriately deal with holding partners accountable to their commitments.  In addition, partnering always requires ownership and designated leadership from each organization.  Indeed, in multi-organizational efforts it usually takes an appointed catalyst who can follow up on next steps and keep things moving in the right direction. 

Myth #4: Partnering is the Strategic Driver

Long ago, Phill Butler, founder of Interdev and later visionSynergy, would coach leaders saying “partnership for partnership sake just doesn’t work.”  The whole point of collaboration is not collaboration itself, but solving larger problems by bringing to bear multiple resources, improving efficiency, and promoting increased ministry innovation.  A useful partnership is results-focused.  It is driven by a common vision for a preferable future.  Among other things, that means understanding when it makes sense to partner (and when it does not), what the specific outcomes will be, what the added value will be to each partner, and what metrics need to be in place to measure success.

Partnering in 21st century organizational life is an essential component in moving from ordinary to excellent.  However, we must not get stuck in the myths.  We must be realistic about what partnering is, when it is necessary, and what is required to make it succeed.  This means we must take the time and make the effort to explore the essentials of partnering, providing our people with the training and the space to work on it.   In addition, we must work through the hard parts of listening in order to build stronger relationships and earn trust with potential partners; agree and commit to common strategic objectives; and follow through on the commitments made.  It is a not an easy journey, but the results are worth it!

This is an article from the Mar-Apr 2017 issue: Networks

Coming Together Around a Common Biblical Vision

Coming Together Around  a Common Biblical Vision

 

Is it really possible for God’s people to work together in unity for the sake of God’s glory in all the earth and the spread of His kingdom to all peoples? If you look at Christian history over the last 2,000 years, you would fairly conclude that it is not. But things are changing in our day and the unity that we need that seems so impossible to achieve is more and more becoming the reality on the mission field.

In his “High Priestly Prayer” of John 17, Jesus prayed for his disciples and for us, those who would believe as a result of his first disciples, that we would be one so that the world would know that Jesus was sent from God and that we are loved by God. In verses 22 and 23 Jesus prayed to the Father for us, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

I believe that this prayer is in the process of being answered in our day. As this issue of MF describes in detail, the global mission community is increasingly coming together in networks and partnerships. There is the growing realization that the task is too big for any one organization to tackle and so much more can be accomplished by working together than can be done separately.

So what would the “complete unity” Jesus prayed for look like anyway? It will not be characterized by a large organization with a hierarchical command and control structure. The clear trend in both church and mission is towards a decentralization of power and control and a move towards the kinds of voluntary networks and partnerships described in this issue.  First of all, we have the unity of partaking of the same Holy Spirit. As followers of Jesus each of us is united in the Spirit. Beyond this, the unity Jesus prayed for will be a unity of vision and purpose where God’s people live on mission with Him in obedience to His word to do His will in His ways in the power of the Holy Spirit. We have been given our marching orders in Matt. 28:18-20 to go and make disciples who make more disciples and to do so in all peoples. The closer we get as the global church to abiding in Jesus and obeying what He has called us to do, the more unified we will be as His body—no matter how many moving parts that body may have. Disunity comes from a lack of submission to the authority of Jesus and a failure to obey what He has commanded us to do. It comes from a desire to do things our way rather than His way. The more we rely on the flesh instead of obey the word, the more disunity there will be.

Over the last 27 years, I have experienced first hand the kind of unity Jesus prayed for as I have lived on mission with God. I have worked with Jesus followers from many different backgrounds. I did not have complete unity with these fine servants of God on every aspect of doctrine, mission strategy, politics and a host of other topics but there were always certain things that we were unified around. We loved Jesus and we wanted everyone else within all peoples to love him too, and we were willing to give our lives to help make that a reality.

So What Is This Biblical Vision That Can Unite Us?

It really is not that complicated. As mentioned above, it is centered on simple obedience to what Jesus has asked all of us to do. Here are some suggestions based on what Scripture teaches.

We must provide access to the gospel and the knowledge of Christ to every person on earth. This sounds impossible but is actually doable if we focus on reaching every people group and fostering movements of discipleship in each one. If we employ the multiplication methods that Jesus modeled and Paul used until he could declare that there was “no place left” for him to work, (Rom. 15:23) then it is possible for every person to have access to the gospel. It is the power of exponential multiplication of disciples making disciples. It says in 2 Peter 3:9 that God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Obviously, not all will believe, but all people everywhere deserve to have access.

Every willing follower of Jesus must be equipped (discipled) to live on mission with God to make more disciples who likewise equip and make more disciples.  The “Great Commission” passage of Matt. 28:18-20 makes it clear that everyone who claims to be a Jesus follower is called to go and make disciples, “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded.” One of those commands is to make disciples so multigenerational discipleship is inherent in Jesus’ last words to us in this passage. Paul reinforces this multigenerational discipleship mandate in 2 Tim. 2:2 when he says to Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach other.” In this passage we can see four generations of disciples. Whatever method we decide to use to make disciples, we must ask ourselves whether it is successful in producing multiple generations of disciples.

The “Great Commission,” Matt. 28:18-20 must become our identity as followers of Jesus. Very few churches regularly teach Matt: 28:18-20 as representing the call of Jesus upon all of our lives. This foundation stone of who we are as Jesus followers is often mistakenly taught as something that applies to a few special called out ones rather than something all of us are obliged to obey. This idea that a few are called and most are not brings great disunity to the body of Christ.  The regular and proper teaching of this passage would help greatly in bringing unity to the body of Christ as we work together on mission with God to make disciples and bring the gospel to every people. How can we say that Jesus is our King and we are part of His kingdom if we refuse to obey, not to mention teach, what our King has asked us to do?
 

We Must Love God and Love Our Neighbor In Matt. 22:37-40 Jesus said,  'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” How do we most effectively fulfill this commandment from Jesus? How do we love God with our whole being?  Jesus has given us some clues. In John 14:21, “ Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” In 1 John 2:5 it says, “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him.” Love for God and obedience to what He has commanded are inseparable from each other.  Our obedience is also key to loving our neighbor. The most loving thing we can ever do for someone is to share the gospel with them. In 1 Peter 1:22, it says, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.”

We can move ever  closer to the complete unity that Jesus prayed for the more we are willing to obey what Jesus has asked us to do and to live on mission together with Him.

This is an article from the Mar-Apr 2017 issue: Networks

Collaboration Accelerates Church Planting

Collaboration Accelerates Church Planting

The Global Church Planting Network (GCPN) took its first public step in 2009 when two leaders from each continent gathered in the UK to wrestle with the question: “What is the ‘cork in the bottle’ hindering church planting in your continent and what could we do together to accelerate church planting?” A vision and strategy was birthed which continues to grow, sharpen and be refined.

The following year 100 leaders met in Delhi, including: Dinah, a church planter working in the rain forests of Madagascar; Karl, an expat team leader serving the southern cone of Africa; and Aychi, a dynamic CPM trainer living in Ethiopia. The three represented separate organizations without formal connection.

In their initial casual conversation, Dinah shared the great potential, but slow progress, among the 6,000 animist villages he had surveyed along the east coast of Madagascar. Five churches had been planted in the traditional mode with which he was familiar. Karl proposed they invite Aychi to come to train new disciples in Madagascar in a new way of planting. Aychi agreed and 45 potential planters were trained in the CPM/DMM principles of prayerfully seeking out persons of peace with whom to initiate Discovery Bible Groups.

By the end of 2011 the recently trained church planters, fresh out of the harvest, had planted 1550 small disciple-making groups with 2 and 3 spiritual “generations” of churches. By the end of 2015 this number had grown to 5,000 disciple-making groups with 6 spiritual “generations.” In this process additional villages were discovered and CPM/DMM ventures were initiated into three additional tribes who had previously been unfriendly to each other.

New challenges being faced by planters out of the harvest were personal and economic. They began to travel further and to be away from their families and garden plots for longer and longer periods of time. This in turn led to family morale issues and less productive gardens required for growing food. Dinah and Karl collaborated with South African businessmen to bring training and resources for micro-businesses in the rainforest. These small businesses in turn provided economic diversification and resources to support local planters in their travels to engage adjoining tribes.

Today the jungle continues to be transformed by the gospel. Fear of demons is being overcome by confidence in the authority of Christ over unclean spirits. Cruel tribal rituals are being abandoned and tribal warfare is nearly eliminated. Villages are experiencing an improving standard of living. The shalom of the gospel is bringing peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.


The work isn’t finished. There are 7 million people in this section of mountainous rainforest, now a staggering 270,000 followers of Christ. Their new objective is planting 10,000 more churches.

GCPN Profile

Let’s “zoom out” a bit. GCPN is a relational network of gifted and motivated leaders who have key roles at a national level or are organizational / network leaders. The shared commitment is to initiating, broadening or accelerating disciple-making and church planting. This is taking place in the context of 15 primary geographic regions and additional sub-regions.

Regional teams pursue goals in prayer mobilization, team development, training, strategic information gathering and mobilization of church planters. The regional teams are also involved in a broad range of issues from supporting persecuted nationals, partnership development, national church planting processes and networking those committed to the vision of a church within walking distance of every person in the world.  We are also involved in resourcing global communication, coaching & mentoring with very limited finances and a small facilitation team for coordination.

GCPN meets globally generally every second year for encouragement, networking, sharing new ideas for crosspolenization and training. Following Delhi, GCPN met in Istanbul (2011), Chiang Mai (2012, Budapest (2014) and Batam, Indonesia (2016).

Participants are invited, not simply to a working conference focusing on their region, but to a long term active commitment to a team with shared goals and accountability. Progress on team objectives is updated twice a year for prayer and encouragement.

In addition, teams, ministry objectives, spiritual opposition, practical challenges and personal needs are shared and lifted to the Lord in quarterly days of prayer and fasting for a greater harvest.

GCPN Regional Team Initiatives

Some regional teams have been collaborating on shared objectives for several years and it has been a joy to see the diversity and boldness expressed in the initiatives taken.

In South East Asia an international team led by Judah Cantoria gathers national teams from 10 nations annually for peer-learning among national church planting leaders. Nation-to-nation resourcing is ongoing towards a broad regional ‘TORCH’ goal of 520,000 churches in the region by 2020. The next gathering of national process teams is planned for January 2018.

A similar expanding process is underway in Europe led by team leader Oivind Augland, currently involving leaders from 12 nations in a highly relational process. When national teams gather in Berlin in February 2018, Oivind is anticipating 20-25 nations will be engaged.

In South Asia team leader Ronald Gier is overseeing a challenging process which involves viewing India as five countries, placing DMM master trainers in each to ensure a proportionate saturation level of trainers and planters in every state. A similar vision for Bangladesh is, at this point, in an earlier stage with three regions engaged in the formation of coordinating teams and training planned for the remaining two regions very soon.

Smaller teams in the Middle East and Turkic world train, encourage and work to build trust in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. There are very encouraging church planting activities in Algeria & Morocco and new underground movement in Afghanistan & Pakistan.

A facilitation team of members from every continent normally meets every six weeks by internet to pray, hear reports, address challenges and plan forward. The facilitation team is coached by seasoned leaders through http://www.visionsynergy.net

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GCPN is also in the process of strengthening bonds and practical strategies with the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication (GACX).

First steps in this process between two global networks include collaboration with GCPN in its Batam, Indonesia (2016) global gathering bringing together 175 leaders from 45 nations and 75 organizations for strategic planning, and a limited number of regional initiatives currently underway.

Connections for Collaboration

Additional information is available at http://www.gcpn.info

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If you wish to receive GCPN updates please send your email address to [email protected], or to receive prayer requests, to [email protected].

A brief video overview is available at
https://www.gcpn.info/purpose/GCPN%20Overview.mp4

This is an article from the Mar-Apr 2017 issue: Networks

A Survey of Kingdom Collaboration

A Survey of Kingdom Collaboration

What’s the Challenge?

All cultures have both idealized and realized values. These values represent the way things ought to be and the way they really are. Near the top of the list of Christian idealized values is the vision Jesus gives His followers in John 17:21-23—“That they may all be one as you and I are one, so that the world may know that you have sent me.”1[1] The distance between what we hope for in Kingdom collaboration and the way things really are often create tension, disappointment, and even disillusionment.  But there is real cause for hope!

 

Historical Context and Previous Models

Over the decades a number of ingredients at the field level have opened hearts and minds to cooperation as an alternative to Western paradigms of individualism:  Distance from home constituencies (read: difficulty for sponsors to look over your shoulder); an awareness of limited resources in the face of overwhelming need; a sense of a lack of effectiveness, if not failure; intense isolation; and an acute awareness of Satanic opposition.

In North America, mission agencies originally came together in the IFMA (Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association, and the EFMA (Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies), finally merging into Missio Nexus—now with 261 mission agencies, over 70 churches, and 200+ individuals as members. 

The World Evangelical Alliance Missions Commission (WEAMC, https://mc.worldea.org/)  with an international leadership team spread across nine regions has nearly dozens of associated national mission alliances. Reflecting the vitality and scale of non-Western initiative, the India Missions Association has over 254 members! 

Change In The Wind

 

 

Following its launch at the historic 1974 meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Lausanne Movement has linked individuals rather than organizations. In face of a World Council of Churches in decline, Lausanne’s power was the core call of evangelical theology and evangelism expressed in a twin commitment to holism (the Lausanne Covenant) and the awareness of unreached peoples (Ralph Winter’s singular contribution to the 1974 Lausanne Congress). The Lausanne Movement provided a safe haven for many individuals who shared these commitments but found little, if any, resonance in their own denominational or organizational structures. Today, the Lausanne Movement (http://www.lausanne.org)  is home to a range of evangelism-related consultations, links global leaders across twelve regions, and is home to 36 “Issue Networks” involving hundreds of leaders across dozens of countries. 

Revolutionary forces—the ease and lowering of costs of communications, the advent of the internet and, more recently, social media—combined with the growing ease and lowering costs of transportation—accelerated a powerful trend identified in the 1970s and 80s: the shift of power of social structures from the center to the edges.

In the evangelical missions community this was expressed in a range of non-traditional initiatives, outside of  formal church-related structures including:

  • Intervarsity’s “Urbana” missions events with thousands of college students connecting, typically, with up to 150 cooperating mission agencies, finding their way into significant international service.
     
  • The revolutionary Intercristo initiative that collaboratively brought over 2,000 mission and Christian service agencies together across the U.S., the UK, France, and Germany to more effectively connect individuals who wanted to serve with specific global opportunities.  Initially criticized for its groundbreaking use of computers, Intercristo linked tens of thousands of individuals to naturally-related field work over its 40-year life.
     
  • And the 1986 birth of the intentional, multi-agency, partnership approach to unreached people pioneered by Interdev.  From an initial meeting of a dozen ministries in Malaga, Spain over the following 16 years the movement spawned strategic evangelism partnerships in over 90 languages where previously that had not been a single nationally-led church.
     
  • Possibly more important, the 1980s partnership movement provided a model for replicable collaborative work by evangelicals across challenging, diverse theological, linguistic, and cultural lines. Rooted in the replicability of the vision, partnership development training, from the early 90s through 2003, helped hundreds gain the understanding and skills to facilitate durable collaboration.

While all of this was happening, the ‘modern missionary movement’ dating back 100+ years was producing extraordinary fruit. The church of Asia, Africa, and Latin America was looking at the world and their responsibility in new ways. In time, hundreds of non-western missionaries began arriving in the field so that Western and Non-Western missionaries were meeting around a common vision. To realize the vision, partnership or other forms of collaboration were the natural way forward.

Also, regionally, like-minded non-Western church and mission leaders were forming new collaborative structures to advance the cause of missions – sharing information, best practices, and encouragement. MANI (Movement For African National Initiatives) links those across both Anglophone and Francophone Africa.  COMIBAM links the Spanish and Portuguese language missions community in the Americas and Europe. And these were barely the tip of the iceberg.

Variations On The Theme – The Collaborative Vision Grows

As the number of language-specific or people group-specific partnerships grew, annual regional consultations sprang up to link partnership leaders. As the next level of collaboration, these regional consultations provided opportunity for people from within the region to meet, share experiences and resources. They were also a natural forum for those from outside the region who had interests inside the region.  More than a dozen of these annual consultations emerged, from French-speaking West Africa across to Southeast Asia. In the greater Middle East and Central Asia alone, four of these annual regional evangelism consultations currently attract over 1,000 participants annually!

But the explosion of collaborative initiatives in recent years is probably best seen in the remarkable recent compilation of mission networks and partnerships consistently updated at the web site,
http://www.linkingglobalvoices.com  Assembled and maintained by Eldon Porter, consultant with the WEA’s Missions Commission, the site has over 500 missions-focused networks, partnerships and other specific collaborative entities. 

From 180+ member networks focused on Muslim ministry to global networks dealing with church planting and digital media-based evangelism strategies,  without exception, even the most specialized of these Kingdom-focused networks represent the strategic meeting point for what is now the global church mission force.

Collaboration Increasingly Defined By Specific Focus

The trends of collaboration today have naturally coalesced around major challenges: linguistic (specific language groups), geographic (countries or regions), and functional (specialized issues that cut across linguistic and geographical boundaries such as media/communications, orality, individuals at risk, Scripture translation and distribution, relief and development, refugees, etc.).

But the revolution in communications technology has facilitated a further innovation in collaboration: In the West, a growing number of local churches connect around their common interests in language groups or countries and then link directly with partnerships or networks in the field. Face to face relationships of understanding and trust are still vital for effective, durable collaboration. Yet, for many elements of collaboration distance is now almost meaningless.

What Of The Future?

  • The hundreds of ‘ad hoc’ digital and other media-based evangelism initiatives must find ways to more effectively listen to and collaborate with national and international workers on the ground – at the grass roots where the real action must always occur.
     
  • Over 600,000 college students study in a foreign country.  While a range of initiatives seek to reach these future influentials before they return to their home country, total impact could be greatly increased by more intentional collaboration among international student ministries.
     
  • Faced with both voluntary and forced migration on an unprecedented scale the church must find ways to more effectively collaborate to serve and reach these groups. In 2015 over a million refugees arrived in Europe. In 2016 over 135,000 more arrived – almost all from highly-contested, high-priority areas like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It’s estimated 50+ million Chinese live outside of China; more Mongolians live outside the country than inside. 
     
  • The global Church’s relief and development agencies' impact would be greatly strengthened by functional networks that facilitate comprehensive coordination by the global church in times of national or international disaster. Tragic events of the last three decades demonstrate the potential such coordination could have in increasing effectiveness and credibility for the gospel by being in place before disaster strikes.

Is Collaboration the “New Normal?”

Across international development, agriculture, higher education, pharmaceutical research, and business, collaboration is considered the ‘new normal’.2[2]  The global missions community is no different. It is now radically more connected than it was 50 years ago. Sociological trends, globalization, the rapidly growing global Church, prayer, and the sovereign work of the Lord of the Harvest have all played a part. While enormous challenge and opportunity is yet ahead, no matter what your role in the frontier mission movement, these remarkable trends can only be good news.

 



[1] Extensive articles on the theological/Biblical basis for collaboration can be found on the resource web site http://www.synergycommons.net

 

[2] See as an example “Collaboration As The New Normal” http://thepartneringinitiative.org/publications/collaboration-is-the-new-normal/

This is an article from the Mar-Apr 2017 issue: Networks

Blocking Truth

Unchangeable “Christian” Church Ways

Blocking Truth

I wondered how often how we “do” church or live out faith before the world gives reason for people to reject Christ?[1] We’ve all seen it: people blame the church or Christians—the way they act contrary to the Bible, lack love, backbite, can be petty—as excuses for their not wanting to associate with the church or Jesus.

In order to move beyond that kind of behavior (as well as history of Christianity, with its positive and negative impact) believers have increasingly sought to describe their faith in different terms. We speak of things like being a “follower of Jesus” instead of a “Christian.” We talk about fellowships rather than churches. Some strongly believe in house churches, which keep the fellowship smaller and avoid the problems that buildings can cause.[2] In missions, we promote such attempts. Assuming it doesn’t avoid the clear teaching of Scripture, we are all for this kind of contextualization.

Recently, a good friend of mine (who is mobilizing for the Unreached in another country) conducted an informal survey. He was preparing to share with a youth group, and his quick, informal, non-scientific survey of 100 of his mission-connected friends had just one question. We could only give one answer of four words or less. The question was (in short[3]):
Why haven’t we finished the task Jesus gave to us to get the gospel to every people?

The top response with 28% was “Sin/disobedience.”

Second: “Wrong Priorities” 25%.

Third: “Understanding the Task” 22%.

Fourth: “Lack of Vision” 13%.

Fifth: “Church Division” 3% and finally: “Other (Individual Responses)” 9%.

My response, which fit under the “Other” category was: Unchangeable “Christian” church ways.

The first five replies are potential factors. We mobilizers need to do a better job of sharing with those who are not involved yet. And there are people, churches, individuals who should be much more serious (or repentant?!) about the spread of the church where the gospel has made little or no impact.

When I replied “Unchangeable ‘Christian’ church ways,” I was considering the on-the-ground realities among the unreached. Yes, we need more workers, more global partners engaged and more believers aware and praying for that vast majority of the remaining Unreached that do not know that Jesus visited the earth. But we must grapple with what those workers actually do when they get onsite. We do not just need more workers—we need workers that are doing different things in different ways.

We must think more deeply about how we share our faith and gather together. That is a basic idea, yet how often do we see churches doing things the exact same way they do in their Western home culture. Examples include: worship music (perhaps translated) and literate teaching (instead of using oral methods). We must contextualize and de-Westernize or replace unhelpful patterns.

Just last night, a brother from the Middle East was sharing at an event in the U.S. Recently, a Muslim woman asked why Jesus would come to her in a dream (she had this happen twice in the previous month). He turned to Revelation 3:20, like many of us have. But, unlike many Americans, he was sure to finish the verse “…I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me.” To anyone from the Middle East, eating together is a profound statement of family acceptance—in feeling at home with someone. She turned to Christ right then!



[1]  I realize that God’s timing and sovereignty is  ultimately the determining factor

[2]  In many places among the Unreached, meeting in homes is all they can do.

 

[3] In asking the question, he also noted God’s timing and the work of the Holy Spirit, so respondents would not give that answer.

 

This is an article from the Mar-Apr 2017 issue: Networks

Overcoming the Challenge of High Caste Peoples

Overcoming the Challenge of High Caste  Peoples


In 1986 there was a consultation which highlighted the need for reaching high caste Hindus. Traditionally the missions community had worked mostly among the tribal and the low caste people. As a result of this consultation, eleven different agencies came together with a common goal to reach a high caste people group. They had periodic meetings and prayer. After two years of research, the L people group living in Karnataka was chosen as a pilot program.

As far as I know, there was no such attempt before this, and the agencies that came together were already working in India with different foci, but they came together because they believed that the task was huge, no one had much experience in working with this unique people group, and they were interested to do an experiment together.

When our partnership journey to reach the L people group began, the population was around 10 million. There were less than 100 believers among them.

One of the challenges that the partnership faced was a lack of resources. For example, during the research we found out that most of the tracts or printed materials were not suitable for this people group. As soon as they received a tract, they would throw it away because it was “Christian” material. We wanted to produce some material to address their felt needs and also help them to understand the Christian vocabulary in their own cultural context. For example, we contrasted the fact that our guru washed disciples’ feet and, in contrast with their culture where it is the devotee who touches the feet of the guru. The L people are mostly vegetarian and their concept of Christianity is that they are meat eaters. We had to teach that you can be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and remain a vegetarian.

We overcame this challenge partially because one of the partners was a large publisher, and they came forward to print 100,000 tracts. Another partner came forward to give free airtime for one year to produce a radio program specifically to this audience.

In looking back, several principles allowed our partnership to succeed:

  • Greater awareness was initially created among mission agencies and churches to reach the L people.
     
  • The partnership model built confidence in the existing partners, and also new ones, that with little contribution from each, much could be achieved.
     
  • We spent time and energy to help people to realize that, while we are limited as individual agencies, there is greater synergy when we come together.
     
  • We made sure more prayer was mobilized for this joint project.

The results are thrilling! It is estimated there are more than 7,000 believers now in the state. Just a few weeks ago we had a the facilitation team meeting to discuss plans for 2017. The team included 15 people, several of whom are L believers. One of the areas of focus this coming year is going to be discipleship of the new believers. Specifically, we hope to gather 30 new believers, each in four different locations, and disciple them so that they in turn will go and reach their own community.  New believers continue to face many challenges. Christianity is still seen as a low caste religion and there is social boycott when a person says that he or she has become a follower of Jesus Christ, it’s very difficult for girls to get married outside their own community, and often there is persecution of new believers. However, we’re confident that our partnership will walk with the L church through these challenges!

This is an article from the Mar-Apr 2017 issue: Networks

Partnership

The Most Significant Factor In Our Ministry

Partnership

If you would have asked me before we left for the field, I'm sure it wouldn't have made my list of ministry keys. But now, 17 years later, I'm convinced that the formation of the Tairell* Partnership Alliance 16 years ago advanced God's work among the Tairell people of East Asia more than any other factor. Our partnership started when a YWAM field worker, my IMB supervisor, and I were discussing the potential benefits of a partnership. Later that day, we scheduled a date for our first partnership meeting for six months in the future. In February 2001, eighteen people gathered for about eight hours in an apartment, and our numbers steadily grew. Recently, the meeting two-day meeting had over 80 people from more than 8 different countries and more than 20 different agencies and churches!

In 2004, after only four annual meetings, the first North American Tairell Advocates Consultation (NATAC) was organized by several field workers from different agencies who were on home assignment in the United States. The first was in Minnesota, and five more of these advocate consultations were held in Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. These consultations generated interest in the Tairell and helped us mobilize, train, and connect many churches and individuals interested in short and long-term work among the Tairell. These North American consultations led to a steady increase of field workers and an increased need for the type of relationship-building and sharing of resources the partnership was so effective at generating.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

Before the first partnership meeting, there was considerable skepticism that a partnership might not be possible because several field workers felt that the two most influential Bible translators, who had been on the field much longer than anyone else, were strongly against any kind of consultation. This was due to security concerns.

Fortunately, we had a mentor from Interdev, an organization that specialized in helping start partnerships around the world, and he encouraged the three organizers of the consultation to set up a face-to-face meeting with this couple to listen to their concerns. When we got together, we were shocked by how supportive they were of the idea of starting a partnership. In fact, over the years, they have mobilized many to get involved and were one of the most devoted supporters of the partnership! But without that first face-to-face meeting to clear up misunderstandings, it may have never gotten off the ground.

The importance of flexibility came to the forefront at our third annual partnership meeting. There was discussion about the meeting becoming too big of a security risk. After listening carefully to these concerns, a decision was made by the participants to limit the in-country meetings to one day. Also, in four of the next five years, longer meetings were held in a neighboring country. These meetings were attended by 30-45 personnel and, because the meetings lasted about four days, they turned out to be pivotal in bonding many of the workers and their families.

Another challenge was leadership. For the first six or seven years, this partnership was led by a team of three people from three different organizations. Then, for two or three years, I became the primary leader and planner by default. At the end of this time I could sense that we were starting to plateau and lose momentum. Just at that moment, a couple who were fairly new to the field volunteered to take over the leadership. They were very gifted, and the next year they brought in a team to help with all the childcare, including an evening when workers could take a "date night."  These changes instantly increased the number of wives that attended, enabled us to extend the conference length by a day, and breathed new life and excitement into our partnership. It also served as an indelible reminder for all of us of the importance of continually bringing in and empowering new leaders in the partnership.

Results

Space doesn't permit the listing of all the results of the Tairell Partnership Alliance! One of our initial goes was to help field workers to not just be co-workers, but rather friends and family. Despite the countless other magnificent results that emerged from the partnership over the years, seeing this actually come to fruition has probably been the most rewarding result. Because of these close relationships over the years, there was an immense amount of sharing of resources, trainings, and synergistic cooperation on many projects.


Early on, development by numerous partnership field workers of a "dialect map" and two 30-day prayer guides enabled everyone to see and communicate to our constituents the great spiritual needs and distinct church planting efforts needed among the Tairell. Then, as field workers prayed over these dialects, the Partnership emphasized the benefits of sending out teams made up of both church planters and translators. As agency leaders began meeting each year to discuss where the greatest church planting and translation needs were, we were amazed that over the course of the next decade, joint church planting/translation teams were sent out to more than eight unengaged unreached dialect areas!

Next, as the first storying audio resources and the first contextualized evangelistic videos were made in one dialect, information and expertise was shared so they could quickly be reproduced in many of the other dialects. Soon there were so many resources being developed and shared that a secure wiki site was created to enable people to securely access them. In parallel, a secure email group kept people advised of recent developments and special prayer needs.

Through prayer and networking, the partnership soon welcomed our first missionaries from Thailand and Brazil, and their prayer supporters as well. It was a huge blessing. When the Brazilian economy declined, leaving the Brazilian workers nearly completely without funds for ministry projects, the Partnership quickly responded by raising the full cost of translating our existing mobilization video into Portuguese.
Another impressive example of cooperation happened just a few years ago when we had a sudden influx of Korean workers into our partnership. The closing of a school for expatriates was going to cause most of them to relocate. Leaders in the partnership quickly gathered to pray and discuss alternatives. To the utter surprise of the Korean field workers, they decided to petition their agencies for funds and successfully bought and took over the school that was closing. This enabled the Korean workers to stay.

The last result–which is difficult to quantify but clearly significant–was the sense of the Lord's pleasure and blessing we've experienced as we worked hard to love and maintain unity among the workers, agencies, and churches from around the world. What a joy! This unity and sense of the Lord's pleasure was also a huge boon to our efforts to mobilize more workers for the Tairell, a large people group with many dialects and a population in the tens of millions. I can't tell you how many times people's eyes lit up when I spoke about our multi-agency, multi-national partnership. Listeners routinely exclaimed, "That is exactly the type of situation that I have always dreamed of. Field workers are unified instead of competing or keeping to themselves!" The words of the Psalmist are true, "How good and pleasing it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity!"

This is an article from the Mar-Apr 2017 issue: Networks

The Perspective of an Aging Apostolic Worker

The Perspective of an Aging Apostolic Worker

As success in ministry rises, it is so easy for our own self-estimation to rise with it–especially in the world of church planting movements. If a movement breaks out, then surely we were a key in that process. How easy for us to trot out our achievements in conversation and to become at least a bit more self-assured of our unique gifts and abilities.

What is the proper attitude for a movement catalyst as we become more fruitful in ministry?

Without a doubt, Paul the Apostle is the example most apostolic workers1  in the world look to as a benchmark. To be able to declare that there is no place left for our foundation-laying ministry is an amazing aspiration (Rom 15:23)

If we emulate Paul’s ministry, should we not also emulate his attitude? As Paul progressed from one degree of success to the next, how did his heart progress? In our endeavors, we must constantly balance the twin areas of attitude and aptitude. David is an example of this:

So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them with his skillful hands. (Psa. 78:72, NASB, emphasis added)

To see how Paul’s attitude progressed as his aptitude and impact increased, let’s look at the three times Paul describes himself in superlatives –greatest or least. I invite you to open your Bible and reference it at every point in this journey.
 

Ephesus circa 54 A.D.: “Least of the Apostles” [1 Cor. 15:1-10]

The context is the greatest of the movements Paul helped catalyze: the Asian Province outreach from Ephesus. Paul has just finished two very successful missionary journeys. He has had further-ranging impact than any of the twelve Apostles. It appears from the Scripture that kingdom movements have emerged in six provinces (Cyprus, Phrygia, Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and now Asia).

In the midst of this success, Paul is being attacked by religious leaders who are denigrating Paul’s apostleship and elevating others as “super-apostles” (2 Cor. 12:12).

In the face of such success, what would our response be to these attacks? Would we justify ourselves and rank our ministry results against others? What did Paul do?

Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Cor. 15:8-9, ESV, emphasis added)

Where does Paul rank himself? It is not just that he is fulfilling an apostolic (missionary foundation-laying) work, he is actually an Apostle of Christ (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:1) just as Peter is an Apostle of Christ (1 Pet. 1:1). He is in that special never-to-be-repeated category of Apostles designated by Christ with special authority and a Scripture-giving role.

Where does Paul rank himself among that august company? Last. The attitude of the least.

Paul displays growing humility throughout his ministry, which genuinely demonstrates his heart attitude. 1 Corinthians 15 is just our first of three stops through the progression of his life. Each stop will show increasing humility rather than increasing self-importance. Increasing humility throughout life is the foundation for God to do a great work.

The secret to such an attitude is a progression of understanding demonstrated in each of our three texts. The refrains of this progression grow louder through the chronology of Paul’s life. At the apex of ministry effectiveness (see Acts 19:10 for the impact of two years in Ephesus), Paul displays amazing humility.


Amazement at the Gospel

In 1 Cor. 15:1-7, Paul describes as of “first importance” the good news of Christ’s atoning work—His death, His burial and His resurrection for our salvation. Paul has been preaching this gospel for years, yet each year he is more amazed that Christ would die for sinners. Look at Romans, written just after this:

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:7-8, ESV)

Paul is amazed at the gospel he preaches—the totally unmerited and unearned salvation initiated by God. How often as years tick by do our hearts become less amazed by the gospel? We have become so familiar with the story that it loses its power to humble us once again.


Understanding of personal sinfulness and unworthiness

Into the context of the gospel, our personal inability and unworthiness to merit any of that salvation should only be magnified. Instead, the merits of our ministry lure us to ignore our inherent unworthiness. Instead, status goes to our heads. “I’m pretty special after all.” Effectiveness in ministry can lead us down a path of increasing Pharisaical pride rather than apostolic humility.

Paul felt the weight of his unworthiness to be an apostle, for he was a persecutor of the church (1 Cor. 15:9). Paul genuinely ranked himself the lowest of the Apostles of Christ, for he knew his past and knew his sinful heart.


Reliance upon grace alone

Knowing his past and his inherent inadequacies, Paul acknowledged that his personal godliness and his ministry effectiveness were solely by God’s grace—the favor and anointing of God on his life (1 Cor. 15:10). His success came not from effective ministry models, personality type, spiritual gift-set or work ethic. These were contributors. Paul says that he “worked harder” than the rest of the apostles but in the next breath says, “not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (v.10).

Grace does not mean that we do not work hard. It just means that our hard work is reliant upon the proper source of power—the Spirit of God.


Effective ministry as a grateful by-product

Paul calls himself the hardest working of the apostles (1 Cor. 15:10) not because he needed to earn his salvation or do penance. Rather, Paul was so grateful for his salvation that he worked diligently to express his love to God. He could do this through fulfilling the stewardship he had received (1 Cor. 4:2).

Paul ardently desired great results so that he could offer these to his Lord as a gift one day (Rom. 15:16). Paul aspired to the salvation of multitudes from the nations. But all of this was a by-product of his salvation and his reliance upon the grace of God rather than his inherent gifting and personality, much less techniques and methodologies.

We labor diligently to equip Church-Planting Movement catalysts to be effective in their biblical methodologies. But it is all for naught without an attitude of humility fully reliant upon the grace of God. Until these workers see that God alone provides the increase, just as Paul did twelve chapters earlier (1 Cor. 3:7), no lasting results emerge.

At the height of Paul’s ministry, the pattern of humility is set. As his life goes on from here, the pattern only deepens. The perspective of an aging apostle is one of increasing humility.


In prison circa 60 A.D.: “Least of All Believers (saints)” [Eph. 3:1-12]

As Paul’s ministry and influence increases, we would expect to see his sense of his unworthiness decrease and his evaluation of himself become less harsh.

Fast forward six years: what is Paul’s personal assessment?

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. (Eph. 3:8, ESV, emphasis added)

Paul has taken himself down a notch. Previously, at least we could say he was a great apostle, even if he claims to be the least of that small band. But six years later, Paul demotes the title he gives himself. Now he is no longer the least of the apostles but the least of all Christians (“saints” is the term for believers).

How can Paul take this next step? Relative perspective. As God deepens Paul’s perspective of the magnificence of the gospel, Paul’s relative sinfulness grows in comparison as does his need to absolutely rely upon God alone for any fruit.

The progression of 1 Corinthians 15 holds true here as well because it is the perspective of his life.

Paul is amazed at the gospel and the mystery it had long held that all nations would be blessed through it (vv. 4-6). Now, Paul magnifies this gospel as “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (v.8).

In relation to that, Paul is astounded that God would choose him of all people to receive this new life. Now he calls himself “less than the least of all saints” (v. 8), and is even more amazed that God would choose him as an instrument of His work (vv. 7-8).

So, he must labor by grace alone. In fact, he qualifies this grace as a gift from God; he (Paul) did nothing to merit this grace for his ministry. As a result, ministry is a by-product of his gratitude. He feels immense privilege to have been entrusted it as a stewardship by God (v. 2). Paul’s relative importance in the grace equation is lessening.

In prison circa 63 A.D.: “Foremost of all sinners” [1 Tim. 1:8-16]

Fast forward three more years. Paul is near the end of his life and in prison again. Finally, Paul stops calling himself the least. Now he is finally the greatest...sinner! In our current age of fanning the flames of self-worth, Paul appears to nosedive toward a self-destructive self-image. In actuality, Paul has finally arrived at the truest image of himself.

At the end of his life, Paul’s amazement has grown beyond bounds. It is almost as if words cannot express his praise . . . “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (v.10).  The good news is filled with glories we can only partly understand because they come from the blessed God of heaven.


Are you more amazed at the gospel than you were last year?

Why is Paul so amazed? Because he understands how despicable he was (inserting himself right after a chain of sinful people [vv. 9-10 e.g. enslavers, murderers, etc.]). In that company, he calls himself a former blasphemer, persecutor and opponent and still the chief of sinners (“I am foremost” v.15).

Paul recognizes at the end of his life how deep the sin is from which he was plucked and made a child of God. Paul recognizes that his heart is still being sanctified and is still prone to evil. One misstep could lead him down a path of sinfulness like Demas.

Think about this for a moment. You do not know anyone else’s heart, but you know your own. You know how easy it is to give in to temptation, to be hypocritical in thinking, to judge others in your heart, etc.

The older I get, the more I know that my heart is prone to evil, that I am not as good as others think I am, that I am not living for God’s glory to my full potential, that my mind still entertains temptations. I cannot speak for anyone else, only myself. Like Paul, when I see the dark places of my heart and the weaknesses still there, I must say, “I am the foremost of sinners. I am utterly amazed God saved me by grace!”   It could be done either way, but here the comma and quotation marks seem cleaner.

As self-worth decreases we can allow God-worth to be our identity. We see our relative importance in the grace equation. We can increasingly rest in our identity in Christ and live with greater faith that this glorious God is able to do, even through us, exceedingly more than all we ask or think. In this attitudinal equation, our ministry, like Paul’s, can become extremely fruitful because it is God who is appointing us to service (v.12).


Which direction is your perspective moving?

I’ve seen the perspectives of workers in God’s kingdom move both directions as they age. Some scorn the idea that we come to this grace equation depraved and helpless. As they progress in proficiency in ministry, their self-worth increases but their God-gratitude decreases. More and more, they credit their effectiveness to their personal gifts and methodologies. This moves them very close to two forms of idolatry: method-olatry and gift-olatry. This is the opposite of “take heed lest you fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). I say with tears that colleagues who have scorned Paul’s perspective have since crashed morally.

It is not that Paul was less confident as he grew older. Just the opposite. But for Paul it was a perspective of his relative importance in the grace equation. Paul’s relevant importance was one of surrender. All the increase was from God.

Oh, may we, like Paul, grow in amazement at the glory of the gospel, that God would save someone like us, equip us by his grace and call us to bear fruit with grateful hearts!

This is an article from the Mar-Apr 2017 issue: Networks

How Networks Are Shaping the Future of World Mission

How Networks Are Shaping the Future of World Mission

In the late 1980’s, David Barrett and James Reapsome published a book titled Seven Hundred Plans to Evangelize the World. In their book, they identified lack of cooperation and collaboration between Christian organizations as a major hindrance to world evangelization. Of all the hundreds of plans for global outreach they reviewed, 66% were completely stand-alone plans - each viewing itself as the sole center of world evangelization. The authors estimated that 96% of all plans for world evangelization ignored or disregarded other Christian traditions, leaving only 4% which sought to network or connect in any meaningful way with other Christian groups.[1]

That was the state of world mission 30 years ago. The good news is that much has changed since then. God is now uniting the worldwide Church like never before to reach the unreached.

Over the past several decades, an increasingly interconnected and globalized world has given rise to hundreds of networks in every field of mission. Through these networks, ministries around the world are meeting, sharing information and resources, and collectively working together to respond to some of the greatest challenges and opportunities of our day. These mission networks are now playing a vital role in shaping Great Commission strategies and the future of the world mission movement.

Networks in Every Field of Mission

The landscape of mission networks today is staggering. There are hundreds of networks around the world covering a wide variety of mission fields at global, regional, national, and local levels. Each network draws together dozens if not hundreds of individuals and organizations around common areas of interest - whether that is a focus on particular geographic areas, people groups, mission strategies, or other issues.

The resource website Linking Global Voices [linkingglobalvoices.com] currently tracks more than 500 different networks around the world. And many of these networks have sub-networks within them!

The Lausanne Movement [lausanne.org], as one example, is organized around 12 geographic networks and an array of 37 separate global issue networks - from the Buddhist World to Business As Mission, from Diasporas to Disability Concerns, from Leadership Development to Least Evangelized Peoples.

Some mission networks function primarily for information sharing, while others are highly participatory, with members contributing resources toward collaborative projects and commonly-defined goals. With such a tremendous range of opportunities for engagement, it should be no surprise that participation in networks is becoming a high priority for many mission leaders and organizations.

A growing number of churches, ministries, and mission organizations see their participation in networks as essential to making informed decisions and fulfilling their own calling.

Three Benefits of Participation

While there are many benefits of participation in networks, there are at least three key benefits that are driving the growth of mission networks around the world.

1. Networks provide access to vital information, resources, and best practices to inform mission strategy.

Participants in mission networks gain exposure to people who think differently from those inside their own ministries. Many networks draw from a breadth of different cultures, theological perspectives, and ministry methods. This leads to a broader and richer perspective for all participants.

Networks offer the most current and comprehensive view of how God is at work and who is involved in a particular ministry field. By bringing together people with a wide range of expertise, networks provide access to information not available within a single organization, even a large global mission agency. Networks provide a platform to aggregate best practices from across organizations, and to showcase what is working and learn from what is not working.

Connecting to these networks enables participants to more effectively shape their mission strategies in light of rapidly changing realities. Access to this kind of information can significantly increase ministry effectiveness by eliminating duplication and increasing cooperation. In addition, networks help reduce costs as participants glean from what others are learning and utilize shared resources, rather than having to start from scratch to develop their own.

Network Spotlight

The “Muslim Internet Evangelism Network” (name changed for security reasons) is one example of a highly influential network focused on using the Internet and digital media for evangelism in the Muslim world. The network now has over 700 members from 35+ different countries and 70+ different organizations. At a recent network gathering, more than 30 participants were Arab, including many believers from Muslim backgrounds. This provides an excellent opportunity for the voice of national leaders from the region to be heard as attendees gather to explore new technology and assess Internet evangelism strategies focused on the Muslim world. The network has provided training for participants on cutting-edge social media and Internet evangelism approaches. Hundreds of resource-sharing partnerships and joint projects have been generated by the network over the years.

2. Networks provide opportunities to partner with the rapidly growing Church and expanding mission force of the Majority World.

Hans Rosling - famed Swedish doctor, professor of global health, and frequent TED Talks presenter - has said that if we want to update our mind-set, we must first update our data-set. Too many mission leaders are operating under false assumptions and outdated models. This is especially true when it comes to the current realities of mission sending.

The face of the mission sending world is changing dramatically as the center of gravity is shifting from the Western World to the Majority World. Those who were previously receivers of missionaries have now become some of the most vital mission-sending churches in the world. While North America and Europe still send many missionaries, mobilization efforts from the Majority World have experienced exponential growth in recent decades.

For example, Brazil, Korea, and India are among the top ten mission-sending countries. China has hopes of equipping 20,000 missionaries in the next twenty years. Nigeria has the fourth largest number of evangelical Christians in the world, and is one of the fastest-growing mission-sending countries. Over 20,000 Africans currently serve as missionaries outside their own countries.

In fact, this is a cause for great rejoicing! At the same time, these changing dynamics have left many mission organizations in the West struggling to understand their future role. One of the great benefits of global mission networks is the level playing field they provide. By participating in these networks, Western mission organizations now have the opportunity to genuinely listen and learn from partners in the Majority World and to work together to clarify their unique contributions in the world mission movement.

Network Spotlight

Many networks that were originally started by Western leaders now have significant participation and leadership by nationals. The “Central Asia Consultation”, for example, was originally started by Western individuals praying for that region. At a recent network gathering, they experienced a great moment of celebration when they realized that of the almost 400 attendees at the consultation more than 60% were nationals from the region. The leadership council of that network is now 90% nationals.

 

3. Networks enable participants to leverage their mutual strengths to accomplish more together than is possible by any individual or organization alone.

At the heart of every effective mission network is a vision to address a critical or strategic challenge that is beyond the scope of any single individual or organization. Networks create shared value through the intersection of ideas and expertise than can foster innovation, collaboration, and ultimately, Great Commission breakthroughs.

At a deeper level, these multicultural networks are one of the most visible and functional demonstrations of unity in the Body of Christ. In a world that is increasingly divided by race, culture, and religious identity, networks create a means for the global Church to demonstrate a powerful witness through unity, love, and partnership.

Network Spotlight

Not long ago, the “Maghreb Network” (named changed for security reasons) was formed with a focus on an unreached North African country. This network has grown from 13 initial partners to now over 70 partners that are coordinating efforts to see a thriving indigenous Church in the country. Their early dream of placing just a handful of workers on the ground has now grown to an active facilitation team coordinating multiple working groups focused on business as mission, English as a Second Language, church planting, relief and development, and prayer. They share information on a secure website open only to network members, and coordinate in-country visits, projects, and employment opportunities. This network provides a rich source of information and collaboration for workers on the ground, ministry leaders, donors, prayer supporters, and partnering churches. Recently, some national believers who are members of the network launched the very first online church for the handful of scattered believers in the country.

 

Four Positive Trends

There may still be thousands of mission groups and hundreds of thousands of local churches around the world who continue to go it alone in their ministry fields. Nevertheless, the good news is that collaboration is gradually becoming the default approach to ministry – from international mission agencies working together among the unreached to local churches working together in their communities.

There are four positive trends that point to a tectonic shift toward collaborative networks in the global mission community.

1. Increasing awareness of networks

There is a growing awareness of and openness to networks and partnerships among churches, ministries, and mission organizations around the world.

2. Donors investing directly in partnerships

The mission funding community is shifting more of their kingdom investments toward projects initiated by networks and partnerships. Many major donors now explicitly ask grantees how they are working in partnership with others to accomplish the goals of their project proposals.

3. Inter-network cooperation

Many networks share common operational challenges. Increasingly, representatives of multiple networks are coming together to share knowledge and address issues particular to multilateral mission networks such as information security and regionalization.

4. Collaboration-friendly organizations

There are thousands of churches and mission organizations which participate in networks around the world. The same individuals or organizations are often involved in multiple networks. The growing number of these collaboration-friendly organizations is a tremendous sign that the mission community is shifting to a new future.

Three Steps to Involvement

As God continues to unite the Church to fulfill the Great Commission, networks will have an increasingly vital role to play. If you are a church or ministry leader and are not yet involved in a mission network, take time to explore where you could both benefit and contribute.

Here are three practical steps to intentional involvement in high-impact mission networks.

Step 1.  Take a look through a “microscope” - Internally assess which of your mission priorities would most benefit from network participation.

Are you considering expansion into new fields and need a better sense of what’s really happening in the region? Who is there, and what resources are needed? Do you have emerging issues in which you don’t have expertise and you need to find others who do? Identify areas where you do have expertise and consider who else you can connect with to potentially collaborate.

Step 2. Take a look through a “telescope” - Externally assess what high-impact networks already exist and who would be the best representative for participation.

Not all networks are truly effective. Not all have strong leadership structures or are effectively working toward shared goals. Talk to people you know who are involved in networks and find out the value they have gained or not. Visit network consultations and find out what’s happening.

Be intentional to provide your best and brightest for the greatest kingdom contributions but don’t appoint someone to get involved in a network without making their participation part of their job description so they have the capacity to really contribute.

Step 3. Take a look through a “kaleidoscope” - Develop a collaboration-friendly culture that actively engages in mission networks.

High-impact networks need dedicated leaders who have the time to commit to the network. That can only happen if their various organizations are willing to give some portion of personnel time to the network because they can see how the goals of the network would also advance the goals of their organization.

High-impact networks also need sustainable resources. If more mission organizations really understood the power of networks to leverage kingdom resources, they would be allocating more funding and other non-monetary resources to networks to help them accomplish their shared goals.

Moving to the Center

If you’re already involved in a network, then consider what steps you can take to move closer to the center, where you will find greater value and also make a greater contribution toward helping the network achieve its vision.

So how do you move to the center of a network and gain access to that value? First, you have to know clearly why you are there so you can set your priorities.

It begins with asking two key questions:

First, what is it that you or your organization need that this network might provide? Is it information, resources, or specific skills? By having a clear understanding of what you need, you will have a better chance of finding people in the network who can help you. If those people don’t have what you need, they will likely know someone who does. Networks are valuable not only because of the people who are in them, but because of the people those people know and can connect you with.

Second, what can you contribute? Can you give time, leadership, expertise, organizational resources, information, or personnel? The more willing you are to contribute, the more quickly you will connect with others who also need what you have to offer. And all of that moves you more quickly to the center, where you will have the greatest opportunities for connections and access to important resources. By understanding what you need, you can prioritize finding people who can help you. 

As you explore and engage more deeply in mission networks, I am sure you will become convinced as I am that Christians are called to work together and that partnership is the single best strategy for addressing the most pressing needs in the world today. Collaboration is the key that reduces the duplication of our efforts, maximizes the impact of our ministries, and strengthens the credibility of our witness for Christ.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

John 17:20-23

Resources

Information about network advisory services and resources: visionsynergy.net

Free handbook on mission partnerships available in multiple languages: bit.do/wellconnected

Online learning community for network leaders: synergycommons.net

Information about global, regional, country, and issue networks: linkingglobalvoices.com

 

 

 



[1] Robb, J. (1999). The Field Based Network. Retrieved 31 July 2015 from http://www.webcitation.org/6aQBVq5Fk

 

This is an article from the Mar-Apr 2017 issue: Networks

Networks & Global Missions

A Dance Floor and a Country Home

Networks & Global Missions

 We live in an unprecedented period of mission history. The new paradigm of “from anywhere to everywhere” is by nature complex, resulting in an increasing need to partner with others for effective ministry. Networks are becoming a strategic tool for ministry leaders navigating the complexities of the globalized world of missions. To appreciate the significance of networks and how one should engage them, one must first understand the driving forces behind the paradigm shift as well as the challenges traditional western agencies are facing as they seek to adjust to this new reality.

 

The Challenge for Traditional Agencies

Traditional western agencies have a unique challenge in adjusting to the new reality, to become “partnership friendly.” Their structures and policies were developed primarily during the old “from the West to the rest” paradigm, when partnering with a non-western missions movement was not an option. While each agency is unique, there are some general trends as these agencies move toward greater relevance. Each of these trends positions the agency to better function in a partnership rich environment.

The first trend is a new focus on pulling rather than just pushing or sending out missionaries. Most western agencies were called “sending agencies” because of the focus on sending out missionaries, whereas today the greater value is the agency’s ability to receive or pull those sent by others into a ministry context. The second trend is the movement away from working as a self-contained entity to working in partnerships with others, both parties achieving something neither could do alone. The third trend is with the systems and policies of an agency. With the diversity of the global Church comes the need to move from uniformity towards flexibility. And lastly, perhaps the most significant trend of all, is that western agencies are redefining themselves not so much as a club that others can join but rather as a network of individuals and ministries focused on accomplishing a cause, always welcoming new partners. While this move from club to cause has profound implications on the agency’s economic engine and its understanding of membership, it is essential to becoming partnership friendly.

The Role of Networks

Understanding the global dynamics and the challenge that traditional agencies face, we turn our attention now to networks and their strategic role. Networks are organic by nature, often times started over a cup of coffee, and they are constantly changing. The website http://www.LinkingGlobalVoices.com serves as a resource for those working with networks, tracking over five hundred networks globally.

Networks take different forms but are essentially an intentional coming together of independent entities around something they share in common. A partnership, on the other hand, is when two or more parties that know each other agree to cooperate to reach a mutually agreed upon objective. Healthy networks are continually birthing productive partnerships.

There are two basic categories of networks. The first is those that are geographically defined and the second is those defined by a specific issue. Geographically defined networks are made up of the evangelical alliances of a particular country or region as well as the mission networks tied to those same particular areas. Most alliances are nested under the World Evangelical Alliance. The mission networks represent either a mission movement originating from a particular country or region or a mission force focused on unreached areas. Linking Global Voices provides a listing of these networks as they fall under the tabs for Global/Regional and Country Networks.

The second category of networks is for those defined by a particular issue such as reaching Buddhists, working with nomadic peoples, or using media in restricted countries. Note that there are different kinds of issue networks. Networks such as the International Orality Network and Honor/Shame focus on a particular concept and help ministry practitioners understand and apply it. On the other hand, a network like the Refugee Highway Partnership brings together those around the world who focus on the task of serving refugees. Linking Global Voices provides a listing of the different kinds of issue networks.

Issue networks, in particular, are being recognized as the best platform for providing leadership in a globalized world and the best space for global engagement. Individuals from around the world who work with media gather together at the EMDC. Sports ministry specialists meet up at

the International Sports Coalition. World Without Orphans pulls together those leading ministries to orphans. Note that expertise on an issue is now associated with the networking of practitioners more so than with individuals who claim to be experts.

Network Involvement - Two Analogies

 

 

There are two things to consider as you engage with the dynamic and constantly evolving world of networks. The first is to discern the health of a network and the second is to know how to build and implement a strategy for network engagement. There are two helpful analogies that illustrate these points.

A Healthy Network: A network owns little more than its platform. People are free to come and go as they wish. A healthy network empowers and equips its clients for effective ministry. An unhealthy network, more often than not, is led by someone who wants to use the network to promote himself or to control others. When considering the health of a network, think of it as a “dance floor” and consider how the dance floor owners manage their business.

Take for example a network of ministries focused on a particular issue. Those ministries associated with the issue are the network’s primary clients. A healthy network will understand who these clients are and their challenges and will prepare their dance floor in such a way so as to attract them to the dance. In addition to inviting their primary clients, they will also draw in their secondary clients. These are networks focused on issues related in some way to the world of the primary client. For a network of ministries serving those who have been trafficked, the network leaders will build intentional connections with those networks representing trauma counseling, BAM opportunities, and church alliances that can pull local bodies of believers into relationships with this needy population. The network strengthens its platform by ensuring that the right people are on the dance floor so the primary clients are equipped and empowered for more effective ministry.

Network/dance floor leaders have three other tools at their disposal. First, they control the music that is played. The music represents values such as mutual respect, striving for excellence and building trust in order to foster collaboration. The leaders also have a spotlight to highlight those that dance well, who serve as examples for others. And finally, the leaders have a microphone that they offer to key individuals who have expertise to share.

Developing a Network Engagement Strategy: One of the most important tasks of a mission leader today is to develop their agency’s network engagement strategy. Those that do not have a clear strategy end up attending events but never really benefiting as they could. 

Every agency is unique and a healthy understanding of one’s identity is the foundation for developing an engagement strategy. It is an agency’s vision, doctrinal statement, core values, ministry priorities, strengths, and even weaknesses that serve as the point of reference for developing a network engagement strategy.

Imagine hundreds of country homes scattered across an open field. Each home represents a network. Some are evangelical alliances, others mission networks, and still others are issue-specific networks. Each house has a large porch stretching across the front of the house with several rocking chairs where one can relax. In addition to the porch, each house has a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen. Moving from the outside towards the center of the house represents degrees of engagement with a particular network. Each agency must decide which houses to approach and to what degree they will engage. Sometimes it will require that an executive leader is the engagement agent, but often it will be the ministry practitioners. 

Having carefully selected the houses/networks with which to engage, the individual settles into the rocking chair on the porch to listen to the discussions in the living room through the open windows. This is the first degree of engagement and would include reading about the network from a website or subscribing to the network’s communications. It is at this point that one can assess the health of the network. If it is decided wise to engage at a deeper level, then it is time to walk into the house through the front door and sit in the living room. This is where you visit with others attracted to the network, perhaps attending an event. Some consider this level of engagement to be sufficient and simply participate in event activities with the goal of networking with fellow participants.

But the real value of networks takes place at the next two degrees of involvement. Serious dialogue and reflection on critical issues happens around the dining room table. At this level, the participants cooperate on research and evaluation of issues critical to the core identity of the network. Those sitting around these tables become recognized as the authorities on the particular issue and in many cases have greater impact on ministry practitioners than do agency leaders. And if the network is of strategic value, the agency might decide to move to level four and offer that one of their missionaries move into the kitchen to work as one of the cooks or network leaders. The cooks prepare the food, know when to serve it, and seek to nourish and empower network members. Investing in the leadership of a network multiplies the impact an agency can achieve.

Networks are assuming a critical role in the new “from anywhere to everywhere” global paradigm of missions. It is imperative that agency leaders understand the value of networks and develop and implement an effective network engagement strategy.

This is an article from the Mar-Apr 2017 issue: Networks

What Must Be Done?

The Birth of a Vision and its Network

What Must Be Done?

The Big Question

“What will it take to see effective church‐planting efforts among all Muslim peoples?” That was the burning question that led to the birth of the Vision 5:9 network in 2002. The year before a handful of organizations began to discuss the need for collaboration regarding the remaining Muslim unreached people groups (MUPGs).

At the time, we had a very incomplete picture of the extent of the Muslim world – where the Church was and wasn’t. It was the conference called Singapore 2002, Advancing Strategies of Closure among All Unreached Peoples, which provided a perfect opportunity to take the conversation further. During the “Muslim World” focus track, two key objectives came out: 1) discover the state of the gospel in the Muslim world, and 2) learn what church planting strategies are bearing fruit.

 

What’s in a Name?

Vision 5:9 gets its name from Revelation 5:9, the prophetic end time declaration proclaiming, “You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood purchased for God members of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (TNIV). Our name came from this vision of Heaven that included every Muslim people group, and a need to mask the identity of the network: Vision 5:9.

We understood the challenge of bringing leaders together to divulge sensitive information. I’ll never forget the second meeting with 17 leaders from ten organizations sitting around a table and asked to share where their teams were serving. It was like pulling teeth. People kept their cards close to their chest, not knowing how safe it was to share these organizational secrets.

Forging Friendship

God set us on the right course to achieve what we believed was our calling, and that was friendship. At the outset, the leadership modeled this by intentionally doing life together. We found ourselves in each other’s homes and doing trips together. We ensured that every meeting included time to pray, walk, talk and laugh. This remains one of the strengths of our network, which has enabled us to keep ‘at it’ together as we continue to grow and evolve.

 

Setting Vision and Objectives

While most organizations were asking the question “What can our agency do to reach Muslims?’” Vision 5:9 enabled us to ask the macro strategic question: “What must be done to reach all Muslim peoples?” This question pushed our individual agencies beyond the boundaries of their own organization, resources, and capabilities to a global, kingdom perspective. The whole church must be mobilized to reach the whole Muslim world. After much discussion, our clear vision statement emerged: Vision 5:9 exists to see effective church planting efforts among all Muslim peoples. This vision was accompanied by four objectives:

  1. Facilitating effective church planting among all Muslim peoples through inter-agency and international sharing of resources, cross-pollination of fruitful approaches, and joint church planting efforts
     
  2. Encouraging and helping to catalyze mobilization and equipping of the global church to disciple all Muslim peoples in our generation
     
  3. Researching the state of the gospel in the Muslim world and verifying what actually is happening or not happening
     
  4. Monitoring and evaluating our progress
     

Global Reach

It was strikingly obvious as we began to push into this strategic question that we were hardly representing the breadth of church planting. We set goals to increase participation from the Global South. We also determined that, to achieve our objectives, we needed to gather as many leaders and practitioners as possible to learn what God was doing. We divided ourselves into work groups and set a date two years out to host a global gathering. Two of these groups became core to the movement: Global Trends which compiled the database of MUPGs and engagement progress and relevant trends impacting ministry; and Fruitful Practices which facilitated research on how churches were growing among Muslim background believers.[1]

Making History

Vision 5:9 sponsored a historic consultation in South East Asia in March 2007 which gathered 500 men and women from around the world. The consultation focused on developments in church planting among MUPGs and which people groups were still beyond the reach of any church planting effort. There were participants from 46 nationalities with experience living among 149 Muslim peoples. A total of 78 organizations and affiliations were represented. During the five-day consultation, we collected 100 interviews and notes from 25 discussion groups that met. (For more, read: From Seed to Fruit: Global Trends, Fruitful Practices, and Emerging Issues Among Muslims.)[2]

Growing Pains

In the year following the consultation, visionSynergy helped us wrestle through questions about the appropriate structure to facilitate increased global representation and the birthing of regional networks and partnerships.  

Between 2007 and the present, our membership grew from 18 organizations to 175, and these represent over 12,000 church planters, 17 denominations, 32 networks, from around 40 sending nations.

The network is led by a steering team of highly committed leaders. This diverse team of 18 men and women from multiple organizations and nationalities works on behalf of the entire network in overseeing the vision, regional expressions, and task forces. Each of these leaders has a significant leadership role within their own organizations.

Having a committed leadership enabled us to clarify the network vision and priorities. As we progressed, we chose to restate our vision as:  Reproducing churches of reproducing disciples growing in faith and truth among all Muslim peoples. Our mission is to expedite and accelerate engagement of all Muslim peoples through effective disciple-making and church-planting efforts. By the grace of God, we strive to see this become a reality by the year 2025.

How are we doing?

We are encouraged with over 300 new engagements of previously unengaged MUPGs started since 2008. We rejoice that Jesus is being proclaimed in more groups, but we continue to be troubled that as much as 48% of the 2,084 MUPGs continue to be unengaged. Our immediate priority is to provide church planting teams for the 163 unengaged MUPGs that are at least 100,000 in size and comprise 80% of the total population of all the unengaged.

The reality that God is doing something new in our day among Muslims has heightened the need for even greater collaboration, especially in the following areas:[3]

  • Global prayer movements need to be mobilized.
     
  • Muslim women and children continue to have the least access to the gospel and so we initiated a family task force to catalyze family to family ministry.
     
  • The proximate church among the Muslim majority has both the greatest challenge and opportunity and so we are working to catalyze prayer, vision casting, and regional-specific equipping in fruitful practices.
     
  • Movements exist in every region; however, there are still areas significantly under-reached and so we are bolstering collaboration for focused engagement in places like South Asia and the Sahel. 
     
  • The ever-increasing Muslim diaspora is a huge opportunity and so we have created networks in Europe (DPE) and North America (Medina) to catalyzing collaborative disciple-making.[4]

Outcomes

Not all outcomes are easily measured. However, they tell stories of impact that go deep. A few years ago, one African leader of a movement of 500+ Muslim background fellowships said Vision 5:9 gave him a place at the table with international leaders. He found his voice there, and he is forever grateful.

After the horrific martyrdom of Korean missionaries in Afghanistan, the Korean mission movement was stifled and timid to engage in the Muslim world. Vision 5:9 seeded the creation of the Islam Partnership of Korea to help provide a forum for dialogue, best practice, and encouragement towards ongoing engagement of the Muslim world.

Abide and Bear Fruit

We believe the time has come again to gather as a global church around ministry to Muslims. As a result, in October 2017 we will host Abide and Bear Fruit: Global Consultation on Ministry to Muslims. We are expecting 1,200 practitioners with about 25% Muslim Background Believers who will lead the conversations and shape the outcomes. (For more information, write [email protected].)

We believe in kingdom breakthroughs in the Muslim World, but for this to happen we need collaboration because the work is too great for any one church, agency, or denomination. For this, we need a healthy and effective network of people. And now we’re seeing the growth of such a network: Vision 5:9.

 

 



[1] The Fruitful Practice Research project has conducted interviews with over 250 workers on 100 teams, 650 surveys, spanning 70 countries, among 50+ MUPGs over a span of 8 years.

 

[2] From Seed to Fruit: Global Trends, Fruitful Practices, and Emerging Issues Among Muslims, edited by J. Dudley Woodberry,  William Carey: 2008.

 

[3] For more information about Vision 5:9’s 7in4 Strategic Plan, write to [email protected].

 

[4] Diaspora Peoples in Europe (DPE) and Muslim Diaspora in North America (MeDINA).

 

This is an article from the

Coming Together Around a Common Biblical Vision

Coming Together Around
a Common Biblical Vision

 

 

Is it really possible for God’s people to work together in unity for the sake of God’s glory in all the earth and the spread of His kingdom to all peoples? If you look at Christian history over the last 2,000 years, you would fairly conclude that it is not. But things are changing in our day and the unity that we need that seems so impossible to achieve is more and more becoming the reality on the mission field.

 

In his “High Priestly Prayer” of John 17, Jesus prayed for his disciples and for us, those who would believe as a result of his first disciples, that we would be one so that the world would know that Jesus was sent from God and that we are loved by God. In verses 22 and 23 Jesus prayed to the Father for us, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

 

I believe that this prayer is in the process of being answered in our day. As this issue of MF describes in detail, the global mission community is increasingly coming together in networks and partnerships. There is the growing realization that the task is too big for any one organization to tackle and so much more can be accomplished by working together than can be done separately.

 

So what would the “complete unity” Jesus prayed for look like anyway? It will not be characterized by a large organization with a hierarchical command and control structure. The clear trend in both church and mission is towards a decentralization of power and control and a move towards the kinds of voluntary networks and partnerships described in this issue.  First of all, we have the unity of partaking of the same Holy Spirit. As followers of Jesus each of us is united in the Spirit. Beyond this, the unity Jesus prayed for will be a unity of vision and purpose where God’s people live on mission with Him in obedience to His word to do His will in His ways in the power of the Holy Spirit. We have been given our marching orders in Matt. 28:18-20 to go and make disciples who make more disciples and to do so in all peoples. The closer we get as the global church to abiding in Jesus and obeying what He has called us to do, the more unified we will be as His body—no matter how many moving parts that body may have. Disunity comes from a lack of submission to the authority of Jesus and a failure to obey what He has commanded us to do. It comes from a desire to do things our way rather than His way. The more we rely on the flesh instead of obey the word, the more disunity there will be.

 

Over the last 27 years, I have experienced first hand the kind of unity Jesus prayed for as I have lived on mission with God. I have worked with Jesus followers from many different backgrounds. I did not have complete unity with these fine servants of God on every aspect of doctrine, mission strategy, politics and a host of other topics but there were always certain things that we were unified around. We loved Jesus and we wanted everyone else within all peoples to love him too, and we were willing to give our lives to help make that a reality.

So What Is This Biblical Vision That Can Unite Us?

It really is not that complicated. As mentioned above, it is centered on simple obedience to what Jesus has asked all of us to do. Here are some suggestions based on what Scripture teaches.

We must provide access to the gospel and the knowledge of Christ to every person on earth. This sounds impossible but is actually doable if we focus on reaching every people group and fostering movements of discipleship in each one. If we employ the multiplication methods that Jesus modeled and Paul used until he could declare that there was “no place left” for him to work, (Rom. 15:23) then it is possible for every person to have access to the gospel. It is the power of exponential multiplication of disciples making disciples. It says in 2 Peter 3:9 that God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Obviously, not all will believe, but all people everywhere deserve to have access.

Every willing follower of Jesus must be equipped (discipled) to live on mission with God to make more disciples who likewise equip and make more disciples.  The “Great Commission” passage of Matt. 28:18-20 makes it clear that everyone who claims to be a Jesus follower is called to go and make disciples, “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded.” One of those commands is to make disciples so multigenerational discipleship is inherent in Jesus’ last words to us in this passage. Paul reinforces this multigenerational discipleship mandate in 2 Tim. 2:2 when he says to Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach other.” In this passage we can see four generations of disciples. Whatever method we decide to use to make disciples, we must ask ourselves whether it is successful in producing multiple generations of disciples.

The “Great Commission,” Matt. 28:18-20 must become our identity as followers of Jesus. Very few churches regularly teach Matt: 28:18-20 as representing the call of Jesus upon all of our lives. This foundation stone of who we are as Jesus followers is often mistakenly taught as something that applies to a few special called out ones rather than something all of us are obliged to obey. This idea that a few are called and most are not brings great disunity to the body of Christ.  The regular and proper teaching of this passage would help greatly in bringing unity to the body of Christ as we work together on mission with God to make disciples and bring the gospel to every people. How can we say that Jesus is our King and we are part of His kingdom if we refuse to obey, not to mention teach, what our King has asked us to do?
 

We Must Love God and Love Our Neighbor In Matt. 22:37-40 Jesus said,  'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” How do we most effectively fulfill this commandment from Jesus? How do we love God with our whole being?  Jesus has given us some clues. In John 14:21, “ Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” In 1 John 2:5 it says, “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him.” Love for God and obedience to what He has commanded are inseparable from each other.  Our obedience is also key to loving our neighbor. The most loving thing we can ever do for someone is to share the gospel with them. In 1 Peter 1:22, it says, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.”

We can move ever  closer to the complete unity that Jesus prayed for the more we are willing to obey what Jesus has asked us to do and to live on mission together with Him.

This is an article from the January-February 2017 issue: Nomads: The Challenge of Reaching People on the Move

Cuando Ellos No Aparecen

Cuando Ellos No Aparecen

Una tarde sofocante durante la estación caliente en Níger, alguien llamó a mi puerta, al abrir me encontré a dos jóvenes procedentes de mi aldea favorita. ¡No los conocía, pero ellos si me conocían a mí! Después de los saludos habituales nos sentamos a la sombra y me dijeron que sabían que cuento historias sobre Jesús.

"¿Nos enseñaría sobre Jesús?", preguntaron. Su audacia me sorprendió.

-Díganme por qué hacen esa pregunta.

"Hemos oído algunas historias sobre Jesús en la radio", respondieron, en referencia a una emisión diaria en una estación local. "Mucha gente en nuestra aldea, tal vez unas 40 personas, quieren saber más. Queremos entender, pero también hay oposición, así que no queremos que vengas a nosotros, eso causaría problemas. Entonces, ¿puedes enseñarnos sobre Jesús para que podamos ir a casa y enseñar a nuestro pueblo? "

Me preguntaba si había oído bien, estuve de acuerdo y escogimos un día para reunirnos. ¡Estaba tan emocionada! He orado por ese pueblo durante más de diez años. Visitando a los aldeanos, muchas noches planté mi tienda allí, y me senté alrededor del fuego donde cocinaban. Cierto día, mientras todos habían ido a la mezquita para orar los rezos del atardecer recuerdo estar sentada orando sola mientras mis lágrimas recorrían mi rostro, suplicaba a Jesús para que viniera y se diera a conocer a mis amigos. Y ahora estos dos jóvenes venían a mí. ¡Qué respuesta a la oración!

El día señalado, habían regresado preparados para aprender las primeras historias que luego ellos tendrían que contar a los demás. Después de oírla sólo una vez ambos pudieron repetir la historia, además rápidamente captaron las cuestiones cruciales. Me sentí bien con su capacidad para transmitir lo que estaban aprendiendo.

A la semana siguiente llegaron varias horas tarde, pero su entusiasmo rápidamente me permitió olvidar su tardanza. La tercera semana llegaron el día equivocado y, aunque no era lo más adecuado para mí lo cuadré todo y disfruté mi tiempo con ellos.

A la semana siguiente no aparecieron de ninguna manera. Llamé y dijeron que vendrían, pero no lo hicieron. Lo mismo ocurrió la semana después y la que continuaba. Desde entonces no los he vuelto a ver. ¿Qué salió mal? ¿Era mi acento, mis equivocaciones con su lenguaje? ¿Les ofendí con algún error cultural? ¿O algo pasaba con ellos que les impedía regresar?

No fue la primera vez que sucedía algo así. La gente frecuentemente no se presenta a las reuniones programadas, a veces con buenas razones, ¡pero a menudo no! Un día estuve hablando con un amigo Fulani sobre este asunto después de que me contase que alguien no apareció tras haber dicho que lo haría. "Así es", dijo con una carcajada. ¡Somos nómadas!

Sonreí con él, sin embargo estaba pensando: "¡No, no lo eres! ¡Has vivido en la misma aldea toda tu vida! ¡Vives a 100 metros de donde naciste!

"Nómadas Establecidos"

Trabajo con los Fulani Occidentales de Níger, un subgrupo de tantos que conforman el extenso pueblo Fulani que abarca una veintena de países africanos; desde Senegal y Guinea en el oeste, hasta Kenia y Etiopía en el este, cuentan con una población de más de 15 millones, casi todos ellos Musulmanes. Históricamente son pastores nómadas, migrando a través de las llanuras en busca de agua y pastizales para su ganado. A lo largo de los años, la sequía y otros factores han llevado a muchos de ellos a asentarse y a sembrar cultivos, estableciendo comunidades permanentes.
Parece una contradicción llamar a esta gente "nómadas establecidos". Pero así es como describiría a los Fulani occidentales de Níger. Todavía tienen sus rebaños, que juegan un papel importante en sus vidas y cultura. Los muchachos jóvenes cuidan ovejas y cabras volviendo al pueblo la mayoría de las noches. Pero el asunto es diferente con el ganado. Los hombres jóvenes se van de su casa durante meses, regresando sólo en la temporada de lluvias cuando hay suficiente comida y agua para sus rebaños. Los hombres mayores con frecuencia hacen visitas a sus hijos y sobrinos que cuidan su ganado en otros países. La comunidad misma no se mueve, pero tienen la mentalidad de los nómadas. Muchas veces he oído que los Fulani se refieren a sí mismos como tal. ¡Y quién soy yo para discutirlo!

¿Y dónde me deja eso, tratando de encontrarme con gente que desaparece con frecuencia, ya sea que estén cuidando animales o no? He discutido sobre esto con otros trabajadores internacionales que ejercen sus labores con los Fulani, así como con algunos pastores Fulani establecidos, y todos nos hemos enfrentado a la misma frustración. La gente parece interesada en escuchar el evangelio y debatir historias de la Biblia. Sin embargo, a pesar de sus palabras entusiastas, simplemente dejan de reunirse. Un hombre occidental que ha pasado casi treinta años entre ellos lo resumió diciendo: "Son Fulani. ¡Nadie le dice a un nómada dónde se supone que debe estar!".

Tal vez estemos simplificando o exageramos las cosas al decir que esta es la única razón o la razón principal para que la gente asista a las reuniones de forma inconsistente, aunque ellos digan que quieren asistir. Enfermedades, mal tiempo, trabajo, persecución, responsabilidades familiares, etc., todo entra en la ecuación. Si bien es cierto que la mentalidad nómada es contraria a compromiso regular (y en este caso concreto a cualquier tipo de compromiso), también es un obstáculo añadido para que lleguen a la fe en el Señor Jesucristo y crezcan hasta la madurez como creyentes.

¡Perseverar!

Hay un grupo de unos veinte hombres Fulani que siguen a Jesús y me llaman su "pastor". Ellos eligieron los miércoles por la mañana como el momento para reunirse para la adoración, incluye oración y estudio bíblico (es en formato oral y centrado en historias de la Palabra). Pero es raro poder juntar a más de ocho al mismo tiempo. A veces solo llegan dos o tres. Es tentador para mí reprender a aquellos que vuelven después de una larga ausencia, como si fueran colegiales traviesos. Pero estos son hombres maduros de 40 años que no buscan una lección de mi parte.  ¡De todos modos hablar mal no haría nada para cambiar su comportamiento! En cambio, estoy tratando de animarme aun cuando ellos no aparezcan.

También para mí es tentador darme por vencida, llegar a la conclusión de que en verdad no son serios en la labor de aprender la Palabra y que sólo aparecen cuando quieren pedirme dinero (que no es cierto, aunque a veces siento que es así!). Creo que es importante para mí perseverar, estar bien preparada para las reuniones y hacer todo lo mejor posible para ayudarles a aprender y aplicar la Palabra de Dios. En lugar de decepcionarme por los catorce que no están, trato de celebrarlo por los seis que si vienen. Quiero estar disponible para reunirme con ellos y orar cuando tengan desafíos y preguntas. Ahora bien, si sólo escuchan una historia de la Biblia cada pocas semanas, ¿cómo van a tener una comprensión razonable de lo que dicen las Escrituras?

Aquí es donde el audio puede ser un gran activo. Además de los programas de radio diarios que muchos de ellos reciben en sus hogares, los libros de escritura, enseñanza y música pueden ser grabadas y distribuidas en llaves USB, tarjetas SD, aplicaciones de teléfonos inteligentes, reproductores de MP3, etc., haciendo que la palabra de Dios esté disponible sin importar el lugar donde se encuentren.  Un hombre que esté lejos de su casa puede escuchar y aprender la Palabra de Dios en un reproductor MP3 con carga solar donde quiera que se desplace como cuando lleva su ganado al agua. Aprender en solitario no puede reemplazar el estar en una comunidad de creyentes, aunque no es menos cierto que es una herramienta valiosa en el camino del discipulado.

Hama ha estado siguiendo a Jesús durante unos cinco años. Con cerca de un 50% de asistencias, es uno de los más fieles en nuestras reuniones. Y a menudo pasa a verme en otros momentos, con frecuencia me habla de otros con quienes ha podido compartir el evangelio. Seis mujeres en su casa (incluyendo sus dos esposas, su madre, y una hermana viuda) también creen. Sin embargo están demasiado lejos para que vengan a nuestras reuniones. Y rara vez los veo porque mi presencia en su aldea llamaría la atención cosa que ninguno de nosotros quiere. Hama comparte con ellos lo que hablamos, pero también tiene un reproductor de MP3 solar que utiliza para aprender las escrituras y compartir con estas mujeres. Mi trabajo es equipar a gente como Hama, que puede reunirse con los demás sin fechas fijas.

¿Qué fue de aquellos dos que me pidieron con tanta intensidad que les explicara el camino de Jesús y luego desaparecieron un mes más tarde? ¡No lo sé! No puedo perseguirlos ni obligarlos a escuchar. Pero puedo seguir orando por ellos y estar disponible por si nuestros caminos se cruzan de nuevo. Y descanso en el conocimiento de que el Buen Pastor, que dio su vida por su oveja perdida, los traerá al redil.

This is an article from the January-February 2017 issue: Nomads: The Challenge of Reaching People on the Move

Derribar una Barrera Invisible

Movilizar a la Gente para que Lleguen a los Nómadas en su Propia Sociedad

Derribar una Barrera Invisible

En mis primeros quince años de trabajo de campo en América Latina, llegué a comprender que la tarea última de las misiones se lleva a cabo mejor a hombros de cristianos locales bien discipulados. Cuando mi familia y yo llegamos a Mongolia Exterior a finales de los noventa, fuimos sin un equipo. Esto estaba planeado, ya que para ver los propósitos de Dios cumplidos, decidí conectar y trabajar en estrecha colaboración con los creyentes locales. Mi familia y yo estábamos preparados para grandes cambios en nuestro nuevo hogar. Los cambios culturales por sí solos eran enormes. Sin embargo las lecciones sociológicas y misionológicas que debía aprender al pasar del ministerio en una cultura latina sedentaria a una cultura asiática basada en valores nómadas iban a resultar emocionantes e incalculables.

A lo largo de África, las Américas y gran parte de Asia, la relación entre los grupos de personas móviles y los sedentarios es en el mejor de los casos, tensa; a menudo antagónica y a veces incluso violenta. Las diferencias entre cómo los grupos utilizan los recursos produce entre ellos conflictos irreconciliables. Cuando entran en contacto, por lo general los grupos sedentarios más poderosos financieramente y mejor organizados deciden que quieren controlar los recursos que emplean los pueblos que viven en movimiento. La tierra y el agua de los pastizales tradicionales se vuelven primordial para la población sedentaria a medida que esta crece. La movilidad de los nómadas y la libertad que esto ofrece es percibida como una amenaza a la estabilidad y seguridad del grupo sedentario. Las comunidades nómadas son comúnmente marginadas, demasiadas veces encajonadas en enclaves construidos por personas que ni entienden ni se preocupan por su historia, cultura, valores y modo de vida. El efecto de esta práctica sobre los grupos nómadas es brutal.

Los muros que estas tensiones levantan y los conflictos que precipitan presentan desafíos especiales al trabajo de las misiones donde viven los nómadas. Muchos ven estos conflictos como un obstáculo insuperable. Yo los veo como una oportunidad para enseñar y practicar el ministerio de la reconciliación. Asia Central representa un lugar especialmente fructífero para esto, aunque los principios son aplicables casi de forma universal con la tutela apropiada.

Un camino a seguir

La mayoría de las repúblicas de Asia Central están construidas sobre la historia del nomadismo. En cambio en otras regiones del mundo donde viven los grupos nómadas, se les considera a la mayoría de ellos como rarezas que existen fuera de lo que los grupos sedentarios más poderosos consideran "la norma". En general, las culturas centroasiáticas encuentran identidad y solidaridad en su patrimonio nómada.

Al llegar a Mongolia Exterior, estaba claro que la obra del evangelio había prosperado mucho en los centros urbanos. A pesar del gran acompañamiento de la evangelización preliminar en el campo por los misioneros y las iglesias urbanas, no pudimos encontrar ejemplos de estrategias a largo plazo enfocadas en el trabajo de discipulado que condujera al establecimiento de una iglesia completamente nómada. Comencé a desarrollar una estrategia para lograrlo. Como nuevos residentes en Mongolia, nos habíamos unido a una iglesia urbana existente. De modo eventual, la que casi seguro fue la primera iglesia nómada establecida en Mongolia se hizo a hombros de esta iglesia indígena que estaba formada por habitantes sedentarios de un importante centro metropolitano.

A medida que nuestra estrategia se desarrollaba, quedó claro que uno de los mayores desafíos al emplear a la iglesia urbana era hacerles entender que este modo de evangelizar cruza fronteras culturales. Un antiguo trabajador cristiano expatriado opinó que el salto cultural iba a ser más fácil para los extranjeros que para los creyentes mongoles urbanos porque los mongoles estaban cruzando una barrera invisible que desconocían; llevaría un tiempo arduo no solo el conocer esta barrera, sino también admitir su existencia. Aunque debían ministrar a otros mongoles que hablaban el mismo idioma, que compartían la misma historia y el mismo patrimonio cultural, en realidad iban a ministrar en un contexto intercultural,  ya que sus vidas urbanas sedentarias habían cambiado mucho su forma de relacionarse con el mundo.

Un modelo de trabajo

En cooperación con nuestra iglesia-casa urbana, iniciamos los esfuerzos para alcanzarlos aprovechando las conexiones con las familias nómadas en el campo. La idea de alcanzar a la comunidad nómada fue creciendo en la iglesia urbana. A medida que tomó forma, el liderazgo de la iglesia se sumó con gusto a esta idea. La iglesia estaba estrechamente comprometida y cuidadosamente instruida. Se sumaron los miembros de la comunidad urbana que tenían corazón para el ministerio y el deseo humilde de involucrar a la comunidad nómada. Se habló sobre los aspectos pertinentes de las relaciones interculturales y el ministerio, estos creyentes mongoles comenzaron a entender que estaba delante de ellos una verdadera oportunidad intercultural para ministrar.

En principio, la ayuda de un hombre viudo de avanzada edad que había vivido la mayor parte de su vida como pastor fue clave para  conectar con las familias nómadas, desarrollar relaciones y educarnos a los forasteros en lo esencial de la etiqueta y la cultura nómada. Los creyentes urbanos se involucraron en cada paso a medida que se iban alcanzando a los nómadas. Se alentó a la comunidad urbana a interesarse por las vidas tanto de los creyentes nómadas como del colectivo de la iglesia. Desarrollamos oportunidades para alcanzarlos con el evangelio. Hemos tenido cuidado de asegurarnos de que el trabajo con los nómadas no fuera percibido como un simple proyecto evangelístico, ni siquiera que se viera a esta como "hija" de la iglesia urbana, sino que se presentó como una iglesia hermana más joven y en expansión. A medida que los dos cuerpos de creyentes maduraron, la relación entre ellos se profundizó y amplió.

Para mí, la parte más dura en el proceso de desarrollo de la iglesia nómada fue cuando nos separaron del liderazgo de los creyentes nómadas. En su fase inicial de crecimiento, yo había trabajado en estrecha colaboración con un líder de la iglesia urbana, sirviendo juntos como co-pastores de la obra. Ambos amábamos (y aún amamos) todo sobre este trabajo y a nuestros hermanos nómadas, y ninguno de los dos estábamos dispuestos a irnos; sin embargo, por intervención divina los dos fuimos desplazados de nuestros puestos de influencia dentro del cuerpo, forzando a los líderes de la comunidad nómada -con el apoyo de la iglesia urbana- a levantarse al llamado del ministerio. Este fue un proceso doloroso, ya que las puertas que ambos queríamos que permanecieran abiertas se nos cerraron, pero el Señor es quien dirige nuestros pasos.

Sufrí un exilio divino de cinco años de Mongolia, recibiendo sólo noticias de forma ocasional sobre el estado de la obra y la salud de los creyentes. En 2014 finalmente pude regresar a Mongolia y ver a nuestros hijos en la fe. Sentado en un pequeño café en Ulán Bator, oí cómo la iglesia nómada había crecido y profundizado sus raíces en la fe. Escuché cómo hombres y mujeres a quienes había ayudado a discipular años antes habían crecido en liderazgo y desarrollado dones espirituales. Estos maravillosos testimonios de la obra del Espíritu fueron compartidos conmigo por el pastor de la iglesia urbana que había trabajado estrechamente con la comunidad nómada desde su creación.

Ahora, más de ocho años después de la partida de los últimos trabajadores no-nómadas que participaron directamente en este esfuerzo, tanto las iglesias urbanas como nómadas continúan fuertes, creciendo en gracia, eficacia en el ministerio y en miembros. Tienen un ministerio precioso y poderoso, han desarrollado una cooperación mutuamente beneficiosa y se han convertido juntos en ministros efectivos de la reconciliación.

El Ministerio de la Reconciliación

En 2 Corintios 5:11-21, Vemos que Dios primero reconcilia al hombre con El a través de Cristo, entonces, como aquellos que han sido reconciliados con Dios, que conocen el temor de Dios y el amor de Cristo estamos forzados y obligados a persuadir a otros. El mensaje de reconciliación se ha confiado a la iglesia; como embajadores de Cristo, Dios realiza su llamamiento a través de nosotros.

El "nosotros" al que nos referimos en este pasaje es tanto la creciente iglesia nacional como los trabajadores extranjeros. Quizás, de alguna manera, se refiera más a la iglesia nacional que a los trabajadores expatriados ya que la obra de reconciliación penetra hasta los rincones más profundos en los corazones de los hombres y mujeres.

Es imposible persuadir a otros humanos con respecto a la reconciliación con Dios sin estar dispuesto a pasar por el esfuerzo, a veces doloroso y humillante de buscar la reconciliación con aquellos con quienes el evangelio debe ser compartido.

A menudo hay una profunda necesidad de reconciliación entre grupos sedentarios y nómadas en una región o un país. Debido al atractivo histórico del nomadismo en la cultura y la historia de Asia Central, ha demostrado ser especialmente eficaz ayudar a creyentes urbanos sedentarios en las estepas a llegar a sus vecinos nómadas, aunque esto no está exento de retos y obstáculos.

En otros lugares hay mayores desafíos para permitir que grupos de creyentes (donde haya habido enfrentamientos quizás por generaciones) alcancen a grupos nómadas. Sin embargo, si Dios nos ha dado (a todos los creyentes, misioneros e iglesias recién desarrolladas) el ministerio de reconciliación y si, conociendo el temor del Señor, estamos obligados a persuadir a otros a cruzar las barreras culturales y étnicas, a superar las historias de hostilidad y desconfianza, entonces la obra del Espíritu Santo en el poder del evangelio nos capacitará (a todos nosotros) para llevar a cabo este ministerio en Cristo Jesús.  

This is an article from the January-February 2017 issue: Nomads: The Challenge of Reaching People on the Move

Nómadas: Ayudándoles a Hacer Frente a los Desafíos Crecientes

Nómadas: Ayudándoles a Hacer Frente a los Desafíos Crecientes

Crecí como pastor nómada en el Cuerno de África. Hoy trabajo entre mi pueblo, catalizando la formación de la iglesia y abordando los diversos retos de cambio entre la gente. Estos retos son a escala macro, y casi siempre causan disturbios al estilo de vida nómada y pobreza sistémica.

Hay dos tipos de desafíos: naturales e intencionales. Los desafíos naturales incluyen las sequías persistentes y las hambrunas recurrentes, también incluyen las tensiones generadas por el aumento de los habitantes en poblaciones cercanas. Cuando las comunidades establecidas crecen, pueden afectar a los territorios nómadas, reduciendo las tierras de pastoreo disponibles y causando estragos a aquellos que en sus mejores tiempos ya se encontraban en una situación de supervivencia.

Los nómadas se ven afectados por los retos intencionales de las políticas socioeconómicas del gobierno que tienen como objetivo hacer la tierra más productiva económicamente. Los gobiernos tienden a considerar los territorios nómadas como vastos y subdesarrollados. Ellos anhelan los recursos naturales y tienen el sueño de desarrollar grandes planes agrícolas. En mi área natal, el gobierno ha puesto tierras nómadas a disposición de inversionistas extranjeros para crear grandes plantaciones de algodón y azúcar. Han convertido el desierto en tierras de cultivo redirigiendo el curso de los principales ríos por laberintos de canales de riego. Los ríos que usábamos para dar de beber a nuestros rebaños se han reducido a un goteo y no nos es permitido dar de beber a nuestros animales en los canales hechos por el hombre.

De repente, las personas se quedan con dos opciones, se establecen y cultivan, o tratan de trasladar sus rebaños a regiones ya ocupadas por los animales de otros clanes. Los nómadas generalmente se resisten a la agricultura forzada y la tierra por sí sola no puede sostener a tantos animales, por lo que las ciudades se llenan y la adicción a las drogas se convierte en parte de la nueva realidad. Estos retos están más allá del control y la capacidad de los nómadas.

Hay un pastor de ganado llamado Ali Michael donde ministramos. Es un musulmán de cuarenta años, un anciano de su comunidad. Un día me senté a escuchar a Ali Michael acerca de cómo es la vida para los nómadas.

"Antiguamente teníamos muchos animales y pocas preocupaciones. Estábamos felices y en paz. Nuestros camellos y el ganado producían tanta leche que derramamos parte de ella en el suelo. En aquellos días era raro encontrar una persona pobre. Si la encontrábamos, la comunidad le proporcionaba animales para que pudiera llegar a ser como el resto de nosotros. Todo el mundo estaba orgulloso y cómodo. Competíamos unos con otros para ver quién podía conseguir la mayor cantidad de vacas. Nuestra única preocupación era que otra tribu pudiera venir a robar nuestro ganado."

"Ahora las cosas han cambiado, nos enfrentamos a demasiados desafíos, tenemos sequías frecuentes. Las vacas han desaparecido y el decreciente número de camellos y cabras hace que se produzca menos leche. Nuestro alimento principal es leche de camello, pero ahora sólo alcanza para los niños pequeños. Nos hemos vuelto dependientes de la ayuda alimentaria y de la leche de cabra mezclada con agua caliente, hojas de café y sal. Aunque no tenemos rey, llamamos a la ayuda alimentaria comida de reyes porque es de fuera. Es una pena comer esta comida, pero no tenemos otra opción, dependemos de ello.

"Al mismo tiempo han tomado nuestra tierra para el cultivo de caña de azúcar, dejando menos áreas de pastoreo para los animales. Nadie se jacta del tamaño de sus rebaños porque muchos están sufriendo. La gente no sabe qué hacer. Estamos orgullosos de lo que teníamos en los viejos tiempos pero ahora también estamos confusos acerca de nuestra existencia. Algunos piensan que este es el juicio de Dios o una maldición. Tal vez es cierto, pero ¿por qué Dios quiere maldecirnos? ¿Por qué Dios no nos permite tener la buena vida que disfrutaron nuestros antepasados?"

¿Cómo podemos nosotros, como evangelistas y discipuladores, responder a estos desafíos? ¿Les ayudamos a encontrar formas de asentarse o les ayudamos a descubrir medios para tener éxito como nómadas? Mis antepasados vivieron como nómadas y mi pueblo no quiere cambiar. Si fueran obligados a asentarse, les causaría dolor y sufrimientos profundos. Incluso si algunos se asentaran, las lluvias acabarían llegando y entonces todos volverían inmediatamente a la vida que aman, de modo que las manadas pudieran crecer en número y producción, proporcionándoles la única seguridad confiable que conocen. No hay respuestas fáciles.

He aquí algunas de las ideas de nuestro equipo:

  1. ¿Qué disposición tiene la gente de permanecer como nómadas? ¿Quiénes han perdido su deseo de seguir siendo nómadas y no se les puede convencer de continuar? ¿Qué hace que los nómadas pierdan este deseo?
  2. ¿Cómo ayudar cuando el gobierno de forma intencionada perturba la vida nómada en favor del desarrollo económico? La ira y la resignación a menudo surgen cuando los pastizales son simplemente tomados por la gente. ¿Cómo ministramos a los nómadas que necesitan hacer frente a este tipo de desafíos?
  3. ¿Cómo quiere Dios que vayamos junto a los nómadas que se han quedado sin nada? Ellos no saben cómo negociar con el Estado y parece que no pueden recuperar un soporte económico. Ellos y los pocos animales que tienen están muriendo de hambre. ¿Pueden los animales de nuevo volver a convertirse en su riqueza?
  4. ¿Cómo podemos ayudar a las personas a desarrollar una visión a largo plazo de los cambios productivos que estos desafíos exigen? Los nómadas son supervivientes y por lo tanto son buenos en la adaptación, pero estos desafíos los abruman. No pueden ver el futuro. Nuestra alianza con ellos necesita beneficiarlos educándolos más acerca de su situación, de modo que puedan descubrir las opciones reales que tienen por delante.

Cuando hablamos de la formación de iglesias entre los nómadas debemos tener en cuenta los desafíos que enfrentan hoy en día y asociarnos con ellos mientras buscan los mejores caminos a seguir. Nos guste o no, esto tiene impacto en la formación de la iglesia porque los nuevos creyentes también son parte de la comunidad y comparten exactamente los mismos desafíos.

No podemos defender de manera responsable ninguna estrategia ministerial que produzca el efecto de sacar de su situación económica a los creyentes. Esto incluye esperar a que la iglesia global apoye sus necesidades mensuales como algunos hacen. Incluso hemos encontrado que algunas estrategias (tent-making strategies/ estrategias para hacer tiendas) no han funcionado muy bien porque generalmente tienen como objetivo crear más riqueza individual en una sociedad que valora la riqueza de la comunidad.

En lugar de crear dependencia, queremos capacitar a comunidades enteras como un testimonio del poder transformador del evangelio de Jesucristo. Mientras Dios nos dirige a las áreas donde la gente de paz nos ha dado la bienvenida, queremos escuchar a la gente. Queremos saber cuáles son sus desafíos no resueltos. Queremos conocer a los innovadores entre ellos. Queremos trabajar con ellos para ayudarles a desarrollar las habilidades que necesitan para llevar a cabo su visión del futuro, ya sea para prosperar como nómadas o para incorporar más elementos semi-sedentarios o sedentarios en su economía con el fin de aumentar su capacidad de vivir como nómadas.

Apuntamos a una iglesia pastoralista nómada de Jesucristo que sea indígena en cada aspecto (incluido el económico), mientras que las comunidades están perdiendo su tierra y su capacidad de sobrevivir. Queremos que esta iglesia incorpore nómadas puros así como nómadas establecidos en la misma comunidad.

Oramos por una iglesia reproductora que lleve el evangelio de un clan a otro mientras se mueven. Queremos que la iglesia sea tan elástica como las comunidades nómadas en las que crecen, pero si la gente no tiene más razones para moverse, deseamos que esta misma iglesia se conecte con la parte sedentaria de la comunidad. La iglesia nómada necesita desarrollar diferentes enfoques y estrategias para llegar a las personas nómadas que viven en diferentes contextos dentro de una comunidad.

Recientemente, me senté con un hombre de mi área. Le pregunté: "Si pudiera darte apoyo, ¿qué querrías que hiciera?" Él dijo: "Lo mejor para mí sería un camello." No me sorprendió. Entonces le pregunté: "Si pudiera apoyar a tu hijo, ¿qué te gustaría que hiciera? “Educación", respondió. Hay dinámicas generacionales en juego. Las cosas están cambiando. Esto nos ayuda a enfocar los planes con la próxima generación nómada.

Necesitamos iniciar estrategias que fortalezcan económicamente a los nómadas para que sobrevivan a los retos y se adapten a los cambios. Los gobiernos son menos susceptibles a etiquetar a los nómadas como perezosos y recalificar su tierra si ven que esta ya está produciendo riqueza reconocible. Debemos servir a los nómadas como agentes de transformación de Dios, permitiendo desarrollar sus propias ideas económicas para evitar a las fuerzas del cambio no deseado. Cuando el modo de vida nómada está gravemente amenazado, necesitamos servir a los nómadas ayudándolos con mejores medios o con segundas opciones para la supervivencia.

Necesitamos ayudar a crear oportunidades educativas para los nómadas y que al menos aprendan a leer y escribir. Hay dos razones para esto. Primero, todos los creyentes necesitan ser capaces de leer las Escrituras por sí mismos. En segundo lugar, los nómadas necesitan estar mejor informados de los desafíos que enfrentan y ser más conscientes de sus opciones de cambio a través de la educación.

Sabemos que los nómadas tienen culturas orales fuertes, pero incluso estas culturas dependen de unas pocas personas con memoria excelente para transmitir la verdad de modo permanente. Una larga experiencia nos ha enseñado que a la mayoría les resulta difícil recordar historias bíblicas y transmitirlas de manera confiable a otros. La Biblia no es para unos pocos. Si queremos ver vidas sanas, reproductivas y transformadas entre los nómadas, necesitamos desarrollar programas de educación para adultos y niños.

A medida que la educación se convierte en parte de una cultura nómada, se desarrolla el potencial para una nueva normalidad. Mientras que los pastores nómadas continúan con las tradiciones arraigadas de siempre, habrá aquellos cuya educación les permita defender a su gente como políticos o servirles como veterinarios, profesionales agrícolas, médicos, enfermeras, ingenieros y empresarios. Podemos ayudar a los nómadas a crear esta fuerza necesaria en su cultura al encontrar maneras de llevar oportunidades educativas efectivas a la vida nómada. Entonces estarán más preparados para afrontar los desafíos para su supervivencia e influir en cómo se produce el cambio.

This is an article from the January-February 2017 issue: Nomads: The Challenge of Reaching People on the Move

Aquí, allí o más allá.

Todo tiene que ver con las relaciones

Aquí, allí o más allá.

Una tarde cuando veníamos caminando a casa desde el mercado por la carretera, adelantamos a un anciano y nos detuvimos para intercambiar los saludos formales. Se sorprendió al descubrir que unos extranjeros como nosotros éramos capaces de hablar su idioma y que también vestíamos la ropa tradicional Fulbe. Con gestos señaló hacia una casa cercana y nos invitó a ir y compartir la cena con su familia esa noche; aceptamos con alegría.

Cuando nos presentamos en su casa más tarde el parecía un poco sorprendido, pero con una gran sonrisa nos invitó a entrar y nos sentamos en los cojines del piso. Mirando alrededor de la habitación nos dimos cuenta de que otros ocho o nueve huéspedes ya estaban allí compartiendo conversación y té tradicional de menta. Algunos eran personas que ya conocíamos, hombres del vecindario o estudiantes de nuestras clases de inglés. Nos saludamos unos a otros, y nuestro anfitrión hizo este memorable comentario: "Hasta ahora os habéis reunido con los chicos, hoy habéis conocido al padre." Sin saberlo, habíamos estado creando lazos con miembros del mismo clan y ahora conocíamos a su líder.

De 1996 a 2011 vivimos y trabajamos entre los Fulbe, también conocidos como Fulani. Comenzamos en un pequeño asentamiento en el Sahel al oeste de Malí, luego nos trasladamos a una ciudad más grande, y finalmente continuamos un nuevo ministerio en una ciudad de tamaño mediano. La ciudad donde vivíamos estaba en Mauritania, fuera del área de la tierra natal Fulbe, pero muchos habían emigrado allí para trabajar en el sector servicios y en algunos casos para proporcionar una mejor educación a sus hijos. Como habíamos aprendido sobre la vida Fulbe tradicional en el área rural donde comenzamos, nos interesó descubrir que gran parte de su cosmovisión nómada les había acompañado cuando se mudaron a la ciudad y empezaron a adaptarse a un estilo de vida "moderno".

Después de mudarme a la ciudad, encontré maneras de construir relaciones con las mujeres en el vecindario. Cuando me invitaban a bodas y celebraciones de nombres de bebés, comencé a notar cómo estos eventos comunitarios habían sido planeados y organizados por grupos de mujeres que se estructuraban en otros grupos por edad y por clanes, del mismo modo como lo hubiesen hecho en sus aldeas o en las zonas originarias de pastoreo de ganado y ovejas. Descubrí que cada mujer Fulbe que conocía, pertenecía a uno de estos grupos. La planificación de la boda se realizaba por el grupo al que pertenecía la madre de la novia; todos aportarían dinero para comprar la comida de la fiesta, organizar como cocinarla y servirla. Cuando una mujer daba a luz, el grupo al que pertenecía organizaba la ceremonia y la fiesta de asignación de nombre, ayudaban regalando nuevas y festivas ropas para la madre. Recuerdo haber observado con asombro como una de las mujeres registró cada detalle en un cuaderno, la pequeña contribución financiera que cada mujer había hecho en una línea junto a su nombre.

Algunos grupos de mujeres usaron este sistema para administrar un fondo de préstamo rotatorio. El dinero acumulado a través de las contribuciones mensuales podría ser tomado como un préstamo a la pequeña empresa por uno de los miembros, para ser devuelto más tarde y que otra mujer lo pudiese tomar prestado. Este sistema parecía funcionar porque las mujeres se conocían bien, y sus familias estaban vinculadas por las relaciones de los clanes. La "garantía" era su posición social en la comunidad.

Todo depende de a quién conoces

David J. Phillips, en su libro Peoples On the Move, explora esta dinámica de la vida nómada en un capítulo titulado "Who You Know, not What You Own." -”No es lo que sabes, sino a quien conoces”-. Escribe: "Nómadas... enfatizan las relaciones con su propio grupo -especialmente con sus parientes cercanos. Su identidad y seguridad está en quién y qué pueden llevarse consigo y en sus relaciones con los demás en el camino. Esta identidad depende de pertenecer a una sociedad móvil con su terminología, relaciones sociales, costumbres e incluso ritos ocultos" (p.31, William Carey Library, 2001). Vimos otro ejemplo de esto una tarde cuando nos detuvimos para visitar en su casa a una familia Fulbe que habíamos conocido, pasamos alrededor de una hora mientras bebíamos las tres tazas tradicionales del té de menta fuerte que facilitan la conversación y ayudan a relacionarse. Nos invitaron a quedarnos a cenar y aceptamos. Al poco rato nos dimos cuenta de que iban pasando más rondas de té de menta y que llegaban más hombres jóvenes. En el momento en que la cena se servía además de nuestros amigos y sus cuatro hijos, había cinco o seis hombres solteros sentados alrededor de los platos, junto con nosotros dos. Después de la comida, cuando nos estábamos despidiendo, me acerqué a la cocina para dar las gracias por la comida a nuestra anfitriona Jeynaba, esta me comentó que había tenido que cocinar una gran cantidad de comida, me comentó que nunca sabía cuántas personas llegarían a cenar. Ella continuó explicando que, debido a que su esposo tenía un trabajo gubernamental fijo y que estaban establecidos en la ciudad, eran una "familia de acogida" para cualquier hombre de su clan que emigrase a la ciudad en busca de trabajo. Se esperaba que proporcionaran una red de seguridad, alojamiento, comida y contactos para los recién llegados hasta que ellos pudieran proveerse por sí mismos. Con el tiempo llegamos a conocer varias familias que desempeñaron este tipo de rol, anclando su red tradicional en un nuevo entorno urbano. Hemos escuchado anecdóticamente que esta práctica continúa en el extranjero allá donde los Fulbe emigran, en ciudades de Francia y Estados Unidos.

Mientras ellos se habían mudado a la ciudad y trabajaban en empleos dentro del sector servicios, del gobierno o de cuello azul, nuestros amigos Fulbe seguían manteniendo expectativas vitales y normas culturales que son producto del eco de sus raíces rurales y nómadas. Uno de los más destacados es cómo responden a la pregunta "¿Qué le da seguridad en la vida?" Para aquellos con una cosmovisión nómada, la seguridad se encuentra en las relaciones, en esa red de lazos familiares y clanes que se extiende a través de la geografía y trascienden a lo que consideramos la cultura moderna. Desde este punto de vista, la persona siempre estará asistida mientras se mantengan esos lazos.

No estás solo, estamos juntos

La importancia de las relaciones como base para la seguridad nos da mucho que pensar mientras planeamos cómo compartir mejor las buenas nuevas con nuestros amigos Fulbe y los vecinos. Al examinar las Escrituras, nos dimos cuenta de que gran parte del ministerio de Jesús, incluyendo muchos de sus milagros, tenía que ver con la restauración de las relaciones de la gente y las conexiones sociales. Los leprosos, los endemoniados y la mujer que sufría de una hemorragia por doce años recibieron no sólo curación física, sino restauración en sus redes normales de familias y clanes y la seguridad que estos les proporcionaban. Nos preguntamos: "¿Podemos compartir las buenas nuevas de tal manera que no sólo traen la salvación del pecado sino también la restauración de la comunidad y de las relaciones?".

Cuando observamos lugares donde los Fulbe se había convertido en creyentes en Jesús, nos dimos cuenta que reunirlos en grupos en iglesias-casas era un desafío y a menudo esos grupos no duraron ni crecieron. Nos dimos cuenta de que con frecuencia esto pasaba porque los individuos eran originarios de clanes o regiones diferentes, y por tanto no tenían lazos naturales o confianza los unos en los otros. Se hizo evidente que las buenas nuevas se extenderían más rápido, y las iglesias-casas resultantes serían más fuertes si se usaban redes de relaciones naturales. ¿Podemos modelar compartiendo las buenas nuevas de una manera que motive a la gente a compartirlas entre ellas mismas y dentro de sus propias familias, grupos de edad, círculos y clanes?

También conocimos a creyentes Fulbe que habían escogido seguir a Jesús como individuos, y luego fueron expulsados o separados de sus familias. Estas personas solitarias sufrieron la pérdida de las relaciones que forman su red de seguridad. Aunque esto a veces es la "cruz que debe soportar" los nuevos creyentes, no siempre es necesario, y puede ser contraproducente para la difusión de las buenas nuevas en toda la familia.

Nos preguntamos: "¿Podemos traer las buenas nuevas a familias enteras para que la gracia de Jesús las reúna en lugar de separarlas?" Y así tratamos de concentrar nuestros relatos bíblicos y el ministerio de oración con familias reunidas en lugar de individuos.

Entre los Fulbe, como en la mayoría de los grupos étnicos de origen nómada, todo tiene que ver con a quien conoces y no cuanto posees. De esta manera, su visión del mundo se hace eco de la perspectiva del Dios de la Biblia, que es intrínsecamente relacional e hizo el último sacrificio para adoptarnos en su propia familia. Cuanto más valoremos y conscientemente honremos este aspecto de la cosmovisión nómada, más veremos que el reino de Dios se convierte en una realidad entre ellos. 

This is an article from the January-February 2017 issue: Nomads: The Challenge of Reaching People on the Move

¿Qué es un nómada?

¿Qué es un nómada?

Estuve hablando con un colega que desde hace poco tiempo trabaja con una tribu nómada en el África subsahariana. "Este grupo es nómada porque no tienen una fuente de agua corriente. Si podemos resolver ese problema, entonces no serán nómadas, y si no son nómadas, tendremos más posibilidades de compartir el evangelio con ellos ", razonó él.

Este punto de vista plantea muchas preguntas en diferentes áreas, pero la cuestión que quiero abordar aquí, y que quizás es menos obvia, es nuestra forma de entender el nomadismo.

Fundamentalmente, ¿qué es ser nómada y por qué es importante?

Es importante entender que el nomadismo no se define solo por la movilidad, sino por su cosmovisión aunque la movilidad es un factor, como ya veremos. Esto quiere decir que no todos los que están en movimiento (emigrantes y refugiados, por ejemplo) sean nómadas. También significa que algunos pueblos establecidos en realidad son nómadas.

¿Te parece una contradicción? Aquí vamos a examinar con brevedad cuatro características claves de la visión nómada del mundo. Pero antes de eso echemos un vistazo a tres tipos de nomadismo que hay en el mundo.

Cuando pensamos en nómadas, principalmente lo hacemos pensando en pastores: los que poseen rebaños de ovejas, ganado, camellos, yaks, renos u otros animales. Los beduinos en el Medio Oriente, los Kirguís en el Alto Pamir, los Sami en el norte de Suecia o los Samburu en el este de África son buenos ejemplos de pastores nómadas, personas que viven y se mueven con sus animales y dependen de ellos para su sustento. Los cientos de grupos de pastores nómadas en el mundo representan la forma más común de nomadismo.

Un segundo tipo de nomadismo es el que podemos apreciar en los cazadores-recolectores. Estos son también la agrupación nómada más pequeña. Los cazadores-recolectores son aquellos que se mantienen en movimiento y viven de la caza de animales, recolección de bayas, semillas y otras plantas. El número de cazadores-recolectores está disminuyendo, pero aún se pueden encontrar. Los nómadas del mar, son aquellos que están en movimiento y viven de los peces y la vida vegetal que se encuentran en sus orillas, estos son esencialmente un subgrupo de los cazadores-recolectores.

El tercer tipo de nomadismo es el peripatético (itinerante) o "nomadismo de servicio", estos grupos se establecen por una temporada o más en un área ofreciendo servicios a través de ciertas habilidades que poseen, creando una relación simbiótica con las comunidades sedentarias. Estos pueden ser comerciantes de caballos, artesanos, herreros, o poseen toda una amplia gama de habilidades y servicios. Las comunidades itinerantes en Europa son históricamente un buen ejemplo de estos nómadas peripatéticos.

Pero ¿qué hace que algunos pastores ganaderos sean nómadas y otros no? ¿O que algunos herreros sean nómadas y otros no? O ¿que algunos pescadores y recolectores de bayas sean nómadas, mientras que otros no lo son?

Estábamos sentados en una tienda en un desierto de Oriente Medio. Mis amigos se habían mudado aquí recientemente porque había mejores pastos para sus ovejas y cabras. Algunos de su tribu se habían establecido en aldeas a unos doscientos kilómetros de distancia; mientras, otros alternaban periodos entre las tiendas y las aldeas, dependiendo de la temporada.

El sol se había puesto, los animales habían abrevado, y bebíamos té dulce mientras hablábamos. Los beduinos son conocidos por su hospitalidad, y además de experimentarla, quería profundizar mi comprensión de ella. ¿Tú siempre ofreces hospitalidad? -pregunté. "¿Hay alguna circunstancia en la que no la proporciones?" La respuesta fue clara: "Si alguien viene a nuestra tienda, ellos son nuestros invitados y como tal los tratamos. Somos responsables de su protección y su bienestar”.

Sondee un poco más, ¿Supongamos que alguien ha matado a tu primo y luego ha venido a tu tienda? ¿Qué harías? Una vez más, no hubo vacilación: "Si alguien hubiera matado a nuestro primo, entonces no habría venido a nuestra tienda. Pero si por error lo hiciera, desde el momento en que entra está bajo nuestra protección y lo protegemos de cualquier persona, incluyendo otras tribus, la policía y las autoridades. Somos beduinos, no somos como esos granjeros o como la gente de la ciudad."

“¿Aunque haya matado a tu primo?” Yo corroboré. Sí, eso es correcto. Después de haber dejado nuestra tienda, le daremos tres días. Entonces podemos localizarlo y matarlo para vengar a nuestro primo, respondieron.

Tomamos nuestro té y luego uno de los hermanos dijo: "En realidad, hay una situación en la que no se extendería la hospitalidad. Si una de nuestras tribus se encuentra en una situación de vergüenza [con lo cual quería decir que la hija o la hermana de alguien había sido acusada de conducta sexual inapropiada y el asunto no había sido "resuelto" matando a ambos, o llegando a algún acuerdo con la familia del hombre acusado] y si entrara en nuestra tienda, llenaríamos una taza de café como hacemos con todos los invitados y luego la verteríamos en el suelo delante de él. Y haríamos eso cada vez hasta que haya tratado con la vergüenza y restaurado el honor y la reputación de nuestra tribu."

Esta conversación ilustra los aspectos clave del nomadismo. Los detalles varían para cada grupo nómada. No estoy sugiriendo que todos los nómadas sean como beduinos o que quieran ser considerados así, sin embargo todos los nómadas comparten las siguientes características:

TRIBU

Los nómadas pertenecen a un clan o una tribu y no tienen una postura individual. Su identidad y seguridad está ligada a su clan, su lealtad es para ese clan y los códigos morales del clan. Los códigos morales y el comportamiento que se espera de ellos varían considerablemente de una tribu a otra; no obstante, ser un nómada es pertenecer a una tribu y no tener una posición personal como individuo.

MOVILIDAD

Una tribu o un clan nómada puede haber vivido o permanecer durante estaciones o años viviendo en un medio ambiente del que apenas pueden conseguir el sustento. Este tipo de actividad implica que tienen que tener movilidad, o al menos que la movilidad sea una opción. La mayoría de los nómadas no lo son con un único recurso, pudiera ser que algunos miembros de una tribu estén en movimiento mientras otros permanezcan asentados, según lo que mejor sirva al interés de la tribu en general. La clave aquí no es si en la actualidad son móviles o no, sin embargo lo es si sus antepasados han sido móviles y si el modo de vida móvil sigue siendo una opción.

AUTONOMÍA

La autonomía es de gran importancia para las tribus nómadas. Estos valoran su capacidad de tomar sus propias decisiones y de mirar de igual a igual al estado-nación y a las otras comunidades de su entorno. Esta situación puede generar tensión entre los nómadas peripatéticos con los habitantes de los pueblos y las comunidades agrícolas con los pastores. Los nómadas a menudo tienen muy poca lealtad a un estado-nación. Quizás es por esto que los nómadas tienen en gran estima el ser independientes; algunos argumentan que los nómadas escogen el estilo de vida nómada para ser autónomos, más que la autonomía sea producto de su movilidad.

DIFERENTES DE TODO EL MUNDO

Al final, los nómadas se ven a sí mismos diferentes de los no-nómadas, aunque en apariencia puedan parecer iguales. No se ven a sí mismos como parte de una jerarquía, clase o sistema establecido, ni parte de un estado-nación. Se ven a sí mismos como fuera de sitio, incluso cuando pueden estar viviendo en medio de ellos.

Estas cuatro características hacen que los nómadas sean nómadas: la tribu, la movilidad como opción, la autonomía y su visión de sí mismos frente a otras comunidades.

Se cae por su propio peso el comentario de mi colega diciendo que, si los nómadas se asentaran sería más fácil alcanzarlos. La tribu a la que se refería es nómada, no simplemente por su movilidad, sino por la forma en que ven e interaccionan con el resto del mundo y esto no cambiará, estén o no establecidos.  Necesitamos afrontar esto: Nuestras estrategias evangélicas sedentarias no funcionarán entre los nómadas. Necesitamos reconsiderar nuestra forma de abordar la situación. Somos nosotros los que necesitamos cambiar por el bien del evangelio. Mientras estamos buscando como hacerlos encajar en nuestra manera de pensar y actuar para ganarlos al evangelio, ellos pueden entender que el evangelio no está hecho para los nómadas.

This is an article from the January-February 2017 issue: Nomads: The Challenge of Reaching People on the Move

Contextualizando al Verdadero Pastor

Desarrollo de Estrategias Creativas Para Llegar a Estas Personas en Movimiento

Contextualizando al Verdadero Pastor

No muy lejos de la ciudad donde vivimos, los pastores semi-nómadas pueblan los valles de las altas montañas de Asia Central. Estas queridas personas gracias a las grandes manadas de cabras y yaks a su cargo pueden sobrevivir a los más crudos inviernos que podamos imaginar. Hasta ahora el evangelio no ha echado raíces entre estos pueblos musulmanes. El desafío primordial para el ministerio en las aldeas de estas tierras altas, ha sido siempre establecer un punto de entrada que sea aceptado y valorado, y mantener una presencia continua; sin embargo, con los años nos ha llegado una oportunidad para nuestro equipo de establecer un negocio, que si Dios quiere, ayudará a desarrollar la industria local de la lana de cachemira.

Al igual que muchos pastores nómadas, estas personas viven principalmente de los productos lácteos de sus animales, aunque también obtienen ingresos con la lana de cabra y pieles de yak. Nuestra investigación ha confirmado que las cabras con las que trabajan producen una lana de cachemira de primera calidad a nivel mundial. Eso suena muy bien, pero estos pastores no tienen una buena información de qué factores de la cotización del dólar influyen en el valor de la lana de cachemira. Los compradores chinos han creado un monopolio mediante la compra de toda la lana de cachemir, este está basado en el peso en lugar de su grado de calidad. Esto significa que los pastores no obtienen todo el valor de mercado para su lana de mayor calidad. Además de esto, la lana de cachemir una vez esquilada de las cabras no se procesa localmente; al realizase fuera del país el procesamiento de la lana, se pierde todo el beneficio del valor añadido. Estamos trabajando en esto para cambiarlo.

El impacto socio-económico es significativo. Como somos el origen de la lana que se exporta a Occidente, nos hemos asociado en América del Norte con distribuidores que poseen puntos de venta al por menor del hilo de cachemira. Como resultado, al eliminar los intermediarios pagamos precios 30% más altos a los pastores que aceptan vendernos directamente. Ayudamos a establecer el reconocimiento de cachemir como su marca, aportando mayor dignidad a los pastores nómadas que a menudo son vistos como personas de segunda clase.

A través de este negocio creemos que Dios establecerá redes de creyentes en estos valles de alta montaña. Cachemira es una puerta ideal para el compromiso relacional. Vamos de aldea en aldea, educando a los pastores locales sobre la industria lanar de cachemir. Les ayudamos a obtener una mejor reproducción que les proporcione una lana de mayor calidad. Les enseñamos cómo recoger las hebras y clasificarlas por criterio de calidad. Pasamos de casa en casa estableciendo relaciones con las familias donde abundan oportunidades para ejercer el ministerio.

La visión es sembrar el evangelio ampliamente entre estos lejanos semi-nómadas no alcanzados, y conectar a los que responden con los creyentes nacionales de la ciudad ubicada en la zona baja. Cuando esta gente de la ciudad se involucra, Dios hace crecer su amor por sus homólogos nómadas, a quienes tal vez pueden haber considerado mal. Están emocionados de tener oportunidades de transmitir a las personas el mensaje del evangelio allá donde nunca ha sido escuchado. Allí pueden ayudarse mutuamente a crecer en su fe, perseverar en un ambiente hostil, y hacer que el nombre de Cristo sea conocido con sabiduría y audacia.

Zukra (no su verdadero nombre) vive en el área de una aldea remota donde llegó a la fe en Jesucristo hace diez años. De repente su hija cuando estaba en cuarto grado se vio afligida por demonios.  Durante tres años ella no podía hablar y no estaba en su sano juicio. Zukra la llevó a todos los médicos, maestros musulmanes y brujos que pudo encontrar; pero nadie podía ayudarla. Sus hermanas eran seguidoras de Jesús, ellas le insistían diciendo que Jesús podía sanar a su hija, pero las odiaba porque habían abandonado el Islam y "vendían su religión para convertirse en rusos".  Finalmente, desesperada Zukra pidió a sus hermanas que vinieran a orar. Cuando oraron en el nombre de Jesús todos vieron una presencia oscura salir de ella y abandonar la casa. La hija de Zukra fue liberada milagrosamente. Toda la familia vino a Cristo ese día. Hoy su hija continúa viviendo en libertad, pero la familia de Zukra vive con miedo a la persecución.

No es raro que los pocos creyentes dispersos en las aldeas sean condenados al ostracismo. Están amenazados con palizas y divorcio. La gente les roba cosas y algunas veces queman sus hogares. Viven con miedo de ser expuestos como cristianos.

Debido a que el negocio de la lana de cachemira nos permite una razón legítima para la presencia continua en las aldeas, somos capaces de alentar a estos creyentes dispersos y aislados. Zukra trabaja como uno de nuestros coordinadores para la recolección de la lana de cachemir. Al ayudar a su gente a recibir más ingresos por su lana, está ganando más autoridad y dignidad en su comunidad.

Uno de los objetivos declarados del negocio de la lana cachemir es devolver los beneficios a la comunidad. Con los beneficios de este negocio se ha podido reparar el sistema de calefacción en una escuela, también en los centros de día de varias aldeas donde trabajamos con los pastores locales. Hemos comenzado a trabajar para proporcionar atención a niños con necesidades especiales en estas aldeas. El gobierno tiene un programa que provee ayuda financiera para aquellos con necesidades especiales. Cuando los niños son diagnosticados con una discapacidad, son puestos en la lista de espera para recibir ayuda financiera del gobierno. Esto les da derecho a la atención médica gratuita y la terapia en un centro de rehabilitación en la ciudad. El problema es que esta ciudad está a muchas horas de distancia y por lo tanto inaccesible para la mayoría de las familias.

La atención médica es pobre en estas áreas. Abrumados por los niños con necesidades especiales, los médicos locales alientan a los padres a ir a un clérigo musulmán o a un médico brujo para recibir tratamiento. Las personas con discapacidades se consideran maldecidas, endemoniadas y una vergüenza. El miedo y la lástima son la actitud general. A los padres de niños con discapacidades a menudo se les pregunta qué terrible pecado cometieron para que Dios los haya maldecido con este niño. La mayoría de estos niños no van a la escuela, y muchos nunca salen de sus hogares debido al miedo y a la vergüenza.

El otoño pasado, mi amigo creyente local y yo conocimos al director del departamento de servicios sociales de la región. Compartimos sobre el negocio de la lana de cachemira y cómo queríamos bendecir a la comunidad trabajando con sus niños con necesidades especiales. Explicamos que queríamos traer un equipo para proporcionar capacitación y hacer que las terapias regulares estén disponibles para niños con necesidades especiales.

Le contamos la historia de su profeta en Juan 9, de Jesús el Mesías, cómo un día cuando este iba caminando con sus discípulos vieron a un hombre ciego de nacimiento. Los discípulos le preguntaron a Jesús: "¿Quién pecó, este hombre o sus padres para que naciera ciego?" Jesús respondió que su ceguera no era el resultado del pecado, sino para que la gloria de Dios sea revelada. ¡Y entonces Jesús lo sanó!

Le dije al director que este es el corazón de Dios para las personas con discapacidades. No es una vergüenza o una maldición, sino que el mundo está descompuesto. Dios ama a estos niños y queríamos ayudar al traer a especialistas que entrenaran y aconsejaran a los padres. El director rápidamente me entregó una lista de 200 niños con necesidades especiales de 17 aldeas de la región.

Vivimos en la ciudad y viajamos regularmente a las aldeas. Junto con los trabajadores sociales comenzamos a reunirnos con familias de niños con discapacidades, amándolos y tratándolos con dignidad. Con frecuencia contamos la historia del hombre nacido ciego y el corazón de amor de Dios para con las personas con necesidades especiales. Estoy asombrado y agradecido por las puertas abiertas que hemos encontrado.

Sin embargo, cuando ya estábamos finalizando los planes para la llegada del equipo de especialistas, las autoridades locales que habían estado muy entusiasmadas con nuestros esfuerzos de repente, en el último minuto cerraron la puerta, amenazando con la intervención de la policía si intentábamos trabajar en las aldeas. Fue un desafortunado recordatorio del miedo, la sospecha, los juegos de poder y el estricto control que ejercen las autoridades en estas comunidades cercanas. También fue un recordatorio abrupto de que las cosas no siempre son lo que parecen. Las situaciones y las relaciones pueden cambiar rápidamente. A pesar de que hablamos bien su idioma, a menudo no tenemos idea de lo que está pasando en realidad.

El negocio de la lana de cachemira nos ha permitido acceder a estas áreas de aldeas. Amar de manera tangible a los marginados, nos ha proporcionado oportunidades para relaciones más profundas. Nos ha dado una manera muy natural de proclamar el corazón de Dios para sus hijos. Todavía tenemos mucho que aprender, pero estamos agradecidos por todas las oportunidades que tenemos para involucrar a estas personas.