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 May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Living the Presence

Living the Presence


There is a remarkable work going on in North Korea that few know about and it is progressing despite tremendous difficulties. It is a work that only our faithful Lord could have brought into being. It is amazing, but God has chosen a devoted group of academics to be His hands and voices in this work. There is no sending agency to find the workers and provide the needed resources, although the Northeast Asia Foundation for Education and Culture (NAFEC) has been working since 2001 to develop the campus in North Korea. Each worker is a volunteer who knows the Lord and is led to find his own support. He recognizes the Lord’s leadership and faithfully responds.

In North Korea, the people whose Christian faith becomes known are persecuted for their faith. The citizens of this country supposedly have freedom of religion, but openly there are only a few churches in the capital city that serve as showplaces. Known Christians in other places are not tolerated. There are reported to be many underground Christians, although in North Korea there are no reliable numbers. North Korea is even more restrictive than China, and this is where Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (or PUST) is located. The principle of the work is to follow the laws of the land and give the best education possible to the students. Because the volunteers are practicing Christians, their lives and their practices must provide the lifestyle example without the spoken words that the government will not allow. These Christians who volunteer to work in this international educational institution agree that they will abide by the restrictions set by the North Korean Ministry of Education. They do not evangelize vocally, do not openly carry a Bible or hymnal and do not openly pray at meals, even as they maintain their own personal life of following the Lord. They depend on the Holy Spirit to interpret their actions, their lives and their examples to the students and the local advisers.

The Beginning

When the founder of an international university in China was approached by DPRK government representatives in 2001 with a request to start an international university in Pyongyang, it seemed an impossible task. The president called in his advisers and donors and asked for their help with this decision. After much prayer and offers of help from his advisers, he agreed to found this second university as well. Dr. James Chin Kyung Kim had made a commitment to God on the battlefield during the Korean War when he was still a teenager that he would love these enemies, the Chinese and North Koreans, for the rest of his life and he would teach them about Jesus. This was the reason that he had founded the university in China with the Lord’s help and guidance. The Chinese university had prospered and grown rapidly, and the plan to use international Christian volunteers as the faculty and staff members had proven   to be an excellent plan of operation. This new university would be God’s university and the work was God’s work. God would make it possible.

The Plans

Soon the word began to circulate about the plans for the new university. It would be a science and technology university which was to begin as a graduate school, and later would add the undergraduate classes.  It would offer courses in agriculture, life sciences, electrical and computer engineering, economics, business and finance management and English.  As the school developed, the future plans would include courses in architecture, construction engineering and the medical sciences. All students would begin with at least six months of required intensive English because all classes would be taught in English. Their English usage would require high-level competency in composition, speech, listening and reading comprehension in order to excel in the high-level courses that the international professors would present in English.

Each faculty member would be required to have at least a master’s degree in the area of his expertise and would need to be a native English speaker or an English speaker with near native competency. Academics with years of experience in the classroom were preferable, but academics with years of work experience in the field of that expertise were also desirable faculty members. The goal was to always provide high-level education in whatever area of the curriculum.

The international professors would also need to be very sensitive in dealing with things related to local customs that may be very different from their own customs. They would need to be ready to deal with expressions that mean different things in this local culture, as well as expectations under certain circumstances that may differ. The leaders are considered deities of a sort, and anything related to any of them must be treated with great respect. Taking a photo in a room where there are pictures of a leader on display means that one must show the entire picture of the leader or take the photo so that none of the picture shows. Such matters are included in the required orientation that takes place either just before the journey or immediately after arrival in country and the internationals must be very careful to observe these matters.

Yet another, even more important requirement for the international faculty or staff is that they would need to live the life of a Christian as they perform these academic or administrative tasks. Jesus said that His followers are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The Christians at PUST must live so that their lives will shine with the love of Jesus to all of the students and the North Korean workers who help on the campus, even though they are not allowed to use words to explain the meaning. Living a life that is always on public display means that the Christians must always show, with sincerity, their own joy at being at PUST and their love for the people around them. This takes a spiritually mature person who is daily depending on the Lord for His strength and His presence in their lives.

Accordingly, the plans also included the gatherings for regular worship and prayer that allow an individual to re- energize his spiritual life. Weekly there is a joint worship time for all of the international faculty and staff that involves a lot of personal participation. There are also Bible studies and small group prayer meetings that take place during the week. The monthly or bi-monthly pot-luck suppers provide great fellowship and variety from the food in the cafeteria. Sadly, these activities are not open to the North Korean students and workers, but they help to keep the faculty and staff close to each other and ready to lend support to their brothers when it is needed. 

Interaction with the students and North Korean staff members

One of the long-term goals that the faculty and staff members have is to engage the students and the North Korean staff on as many levels as possible. The rules of engagement are that the internationals may not visit in the apartments or the offices with lone individuals. If a faculty member wants to talk with a student, he can request the student to come to his office and the professor will understand that inherently means that the student will have a companion with him.  Conversely, the student may not have a private meeting with one of the international professors unless his partner or friend comes with him. That sounds very restrictive but there are so many informal ways to meet and converse with others that the internationals come to feel relatively close to many of the North Korean students. The internationals always must remember that they are the visitors and are the welcomed guests of the country, so they must never criticize the country or its people. They also must stay away from conversations that include anything about culture, religion or politics. The point of being in the country is to try to set the example for peaceful interaction with each other.

One excellent way to encourage free conversation is for internationals to sit at the same table with students they know in the cafeteria. The tables have seats for only four people, so the conversations tend to be directly related to personal topics that someone wants to pursue.

The English corner groups are voluntary for the students, but are often well attended. They are excellent ways to be involved in informal conversations between the teachers and the students. There may be planned conversations or role-play games to stimulate talk. There may also be table games which allow informal conversation as the game moves along. The main thing, however, is that the object of being in the group is to stimulate English conversation. Practicing the use of English is a great way to learn English, but it is also a great way to stimulate informal conversations.

During the summer semester, the regular teachers are usually away and short-term volunteers take their places in the classrooms. The students love these youthful teachers who are so full of life and fun! The afternoons are all given to various activities designed to keep the students talking to each other and to the teachers. The students enjoy the extensive variety of activities. The classroom study is in the morning with only light homework assigned because the afternoons are so full for the students and the volunteer teachers. Conversational skills grow rapidly then, but the social skills also grow and the North Korean students come to know these short-term visitors well. Sporting activities lead to character development and understanding of integrity and a mutual respect and understanding is the natural result.

The Results

The results of the blending of these two very different groups of people is that each comes to know the other relatively well. There is acceptance of differences and tolerance develops for individual differences. There is also curiosity that stimulates questions from the students that let the professors know that they are questioning the spiritual things they have noted in the lives of these internationals. Privately, the professors rejoice because they know the Holy Spirit is at work. Remembering the students who were open and listening encourages the faculty to remember what Jesus said in John 7:38. The professors have been the channels for the Living Water and the Holy Spirit has been directing the flow. There will be fruit. This is the way of peace!

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Kingdom Kernels

Kingdom Kernels

652. That’s the latest number of kingdom movements (Church-Planting Movements or CPMs) slaying the giants of darkness in every major religious worldview on every continent[1]: Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Tribal or animist, Post-Modern, Churched societies, Post-churched societies, Academic, Rural, Urban, Highly oppressive regimes, open contexts, skeptical communities, Latino, East Asian, South Asian, Central Asian, Eastern European, Western European, North American, North African, Middle Eastern, Iranian, Sub-Saharan African. 

With an increasing number of movements on every continent, our generation is without excuse. There is no giant of unbelief that cannot be overcome through Acts-like kingdom movements.

It has been seven years since my article on precedent and promise appeared in Mission Frontiers Mar-Apr 2011 ( has-to-be-first[2]). King David’s mighty men learned how to slay giants because they had the precedent of his defeat of Goliath. Precedent offered them hope and a model for overcoming huge problems. But before there was precedent for killing giants, the young shepherd boy David relied solely on the promises of God to defeat Goliath.

A lot has transpired in seven years. For many countries, kingdom movement strategists have lived out their strategies solely based on the promises of God with no clear modern- day precedents for CPM in their culture. However, as movements have begun proliferating in places where there had been none before, practitioners also have the power of CPM precedent in their own contexts. This precedent gives them clear models and a spirit of faith to emulate   in implementing the promise of multiplying disciples, churches, leaders and movements in their context.

What are the elements that have led to such proliferation? Bold, faith-filled practitioners have emulated the same elements that we see in the life of David as he slew Goliath based on the promise of God alone. Upon entering the Valley of Elah where the Philistines were arrayed against the Israelites, David had a promise from God that the Promised Land should be Israel’s. Armed with the covenant promises, in courage and faith he slew a giant against all human odds, when no one else would step out against the giant. In the beginning, SOMEONE has to be FIRST when there is no precedent. When you have no precedent, all you have is the promise. But the promise is enough.

In I Samuel 17, we can highlight seven elements to emulate from the life of David in how he pulled off such an upset with only the promise before him.

1. Settle the promise in your mind and make a decision to act (I Sam. 17:31-37, ESV)

In the forty-day period of intimidation of the Israelites by Goliath, everything changed when a man of God entered the situation. I Sam. 17:23 simply says, “And David heard him.”

Someone in the multitude of Israel’s armies had to settle the truth of the promise in his mind, and then decide to act. David’s entry into the fogs of despondency    in the Valley of Elah was the beginning of enacting the promise of God and defeating the enemy. David refused to believe his eyes or the lies of the enemy, but chose instead to believe the unseen covenant promises of God. In I Sam. 17:31-37, he recounts the promises of God to his listeners and decides to act upon those promises.

Two decades ago, when our family entered a dark, unreached place in Asia, my eyes told me there was no hope for a movement. The lies the enemy whispered in my ears reaffirmed my sight. Only by abiding in God’s Word and reading the book of Acts every month could our family claim the unseen promises of God to reach our people group in power. With that perspective fixed in our minds, we then made a decision to act in expectation that the Spirit would show up in power as He promised. A movement of God was the result.

Without the right perspective and empowerment of the Spirit, actions taken toward catalyzing a movement are useless. Whether it is a shepherd boy named David or a fruitful CPM practitioner today, one perspective prevails in the minds of giant-slayers: God wants to start a movement 1) here, 2) now, 3) through me. With that fixed in their minds, fruitful giant-slayers make a decision to act. 

2. Jettison methods that don’t help (I Sam. 17:38-39, ESV) 

Our modern ministry culture excels at repeating practices and patterns that will never help us reach our goals. Perhaps it is because these methods are all we know, or perhaps it is because they are the most fruitful examples we know of. Yet somehow we assume that with more diligent effort, our results will be different.

No doubt, King Saul was well-intentioned in arming David with his own armor. Armor had worked in other situations. But forty days of lining up for battle had proven that the king’s armor was no match for the giant’s taunts. Even so, a culture of repeating failed patterns prevailed.

Though the matter was settled in his mind, David almost succumbed to failed practices of clunky armor. However, David recognized the inadequacy of such an approach and jettisoned this course of action:

“I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. (I Sam. 17:39, ESV)

Realizing that certain ministry practices do not get you to the goal of kingdom movements is a huge step forward. Jettisoning them is a gutsy decision, but one that is essential. One fruitful practitioner remarked, “I feel like I’ve restarted my CPM ministry three times!” Yet each time, after careful evaluation, he jettisoned practices that were non-reproductive and replaced them with practices that could multiply disciples and churches. Knowing what to say “no” to is as important as knowing what to say “yes” to. But then, you actually have to make the gutsy decision to change. 

3. Use proven approaches (I Sam. 17:39-40, ESV) 

Though David did not know of a precedent for killing giants, he did have the precedent that a sling and a staff could help him slay lions and bears (verses 34-36). Later, David’s mighty men had in their repertoire the precedent of David killing a giant and the pattern for doing that.

Regardless of whether you have precedent for CPM in your cultural worldview or not, there are enough movements in the world for us to know what our five smooth stones and a staff are – methods that help get to multiplication. Our generation is without excuse. No matter their names, there are enough proven methods, tools and approaches for movements: Four Fields, T4T, DMM, Zume, Discovery Bible Studies, Three Thirds, the Big One, and many others. All are examples of healthy, biblical CPM models.

Pick some proven multiplying methods in a context similar to your own and implement them with faith. In God’s timing, He will empower your efforts and those of the local disciples you invest in to result in an Acts re-emergence. You no longer need to invent your own model, or if you do, at least do so informed by proven biblical kingdom movement practices. 

4. Don’t be intimidated but remember the promise (I Sam. 17:40-47, ESV) 

As you make a decision to act with proven approaches, then comes the real test. As David walked to the battle line with his staff and slingshot, the giant began a battle of intimidation. This battle was not primarily about plans and strategy. This was a spiritual assault of fear based on the lies of the enemy. No CPM plan—no matter how effective your methods—survives the battle of intimidation without remembering the promise of God.

Goliath’s assault was nothing less than spiritual warfare—a call upon the demonic powers to inject fear into the heart of God’s servant. And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. (I Sam. 17:42, ESV)

In response, David chose not to believe his eyes (vv. 40, 43) for the giant was truly bigger. He chose not to believe the lies (v. 44) of the demonic powers. Instead, he chose to keep remembering the promise of God. He even quoted this as he advanced toward the enemy, battle plan in mind:

“I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand…. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” (I Sam. 17:45, 46, 47, ESV)

At any point in the fight for a movement you can cave in to fear which paralyzes. Yet, the giant stands no chance compared to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Keep believing that God will uphold His covenant and preserve His renown.

5. Run to the battle: take initiative and work hard (I Sam. 17:48-51, ESV)

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. (I Sam. 17:48, ESV, emphasis added)

While the enemy was attempting to paralyze him, David was acting. He took the initiative and did the hard work of slaying a giant. I doubt that he had all the steps of the battle plan figured out yet. For example, did he know he would use the giant’s own sword to behead him? Subsequent steps would be figured out in the midst of battle.

Too many would-be CPM practitioners tinker endlessly in the ministry laboratory until they feel they have planned for every contingency and devised the “perfect CPM model.” Instead, effective practices are built in real time, trying them 50-100 times, tweaking, adjusting and just plain working hard. Initiative and hard work will take any visionary practitioner a long way toward multiplication, even with less-than-perfect ministry methods.

To be fruitful, we must leave the laboratory and run to the battle even before we feel fully prepared. With first steps in mind, we just start and then adjust as we go, following the Spirit’s leading. We keep updating our methods, but we don’t let tinkering in the lab keep us from the battle. 

6. Keep moving to the next stage until there is No Place Left  (I Sam. 17:54, ESV)

David refused to be satisfied with one victory, no matter how big. The promise he held onto was that all of the Promised Land would be Israel’s. Too many walled towns still held against the promises of God. 

While the people of Israel pursued the fleeing Philistines, David was preparing to move on to the next stages until ultimately there was no place left to conquer (II Sam. 7:1; this is similar to Paul in Rom. 15:23—no place left).

David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem. (I Sam. 17:54, ESV)

It is easy to forget that Jerusalem belonged to the Jebusites at this time. A mere six miles from David’s home town of Bethlehem, the walls of Jerusalem were a thorn in Israel’s side. How many times had David shepherded his flock under the shadow of Jerusalem’s walls incensed that the enemies of Israel could so publicly flaunt their resistance?

David’s  first act after defeating Goliath was to run   to the city walls and serve notice to that high place: “You’re next!” Years later, David’s first act  as  king over all Israel was to take down this bigger giant and establish his capital there (II Sam. 5:6ff). David refused to stop until there was no place left to conquer.

Effective CPM practitioners are not satisfied with half victories. They do not stop the advance until all people have had a chance to hear and respond to the good news. In the global 24:14 Coalition, we have refused to be satisfied with 652 CPMs. We will press on so that every unreached people and place is engaged with an effective CPM strategy by 2025 ( 

7.Sojourn in the Tent of God and not the Valley of Elah (I Sam. 17: 15–16, 19-20; Psa. 15:1, ESV)

For forty days (I Sam. 17:16), the men of Israel had twice daily descended into the fogs of intimidation and disbelief. Their spiritual eyes moved from the God of heaven to the nine-foot tall giant. In the Valley of Elah, blinded to the truth, they lived in defeat. 

Contrast this with the shepherd boy who shuttled back and forth from shepherding his flock under the stars of heaven to visiting the battle line (v. 15). In the wilderness, besides defeating lions and bears, David was worshiping the Creator and writing Psalms. 

Years later, likely from the hill of Jerusalem, David penned Psalm 15:

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? (Psa. 15:1, ESV)

The Hebrew word for “sojourn” implies a “abiding rest in the midst of a wandering life” whereas the Hebrew word “dwell” is the opposite; an “abiding rest in the midst of a settled life.” David had learned to dwell in God’s presence no matter his circumstances.

While the forces of Israel were mired in the intimidation of the Valley of Elah, David was abiding in the tent of God no matter where his feet wandered. Entering the valley, he held a true picture of the Most High in his heart and realized that the giant stood no chance. It is a dangerous thing to taunt a man who sojourns in the tent of God.

Whether your life is filled with wandering or fixed in one place, the key is to dwell in God’s presence—in the tent of God as it were. Only in this place of abiding in the Spirit of God will you find the perspective and strength you need to fight the battle.

Then you can be a difference maker as in verse 23 when it said that “David heard him.” If you sojourn in God’s presence, then you will see and act in proper perspective to the Maker of all things, and God will initiate movements around you. He wants a movement 1) where you work, 2) now, 3) through you.

[1] This number will be surpassed by the time you read it in print.

[2] I heartily recommend you read that article first to better understand the seven elements mentioned in this article.


This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Further Reflections

Further Reflections

I recently was on the receiving end of a HUGE encouragement during two events. In Thailand, I met with about 70 folks focused in a large country in Asia. In South Africa, I was surrounded by more than 400 mission workers/leaders from all over the world who have some connection with SIM International. 

Why was I encouraged?

In a phrase: people through whom God is working.  I am energized as we plan and work on telling stories like these through a podcast we are creating. Here are examples of possible storylines:

Family in frontier missions

An Indian brother from a Hindu background now lives in New Zealand. Through the relationships of his children at school, they are loving Muslims into the Kingdom. We have written before about this idea. Others I interviewed told similar stories of the power of family in mission. See the Mission Frontiers March–April 2012 issue with the theme: “Is The Family God’s Prime Mission Strategy For World Evangelization?”. You can find it at:

How do we effectively share with people of other faiths?

A Kenyan brother trains folks how to love Muslims and get to know them as friends, while sensitively sharing Christ with them. He has seen many people go through his training and then serve full- time loving Muslims. Just this week back in Pasadena, I recorded more stories about how faith is spreading from a brother who has worked with Muslims for 40 years. 

At a special dinner during one of the events, I had what may have been the most interesting meal discussion I have ever had with anyone! I can’t say more in print because of where he serves now (and I couldn’t interview him). I will say that it was encouraging because God is moving through people he has groomed and gifted, people who are living in difficulty yet bearing fruit. Like Paul said, “a great door for effectual service is open…but there are many adversaries.” 1 Cor. 16:9 KJV.

What is a mobilizer?

During and just after college, Sam—a young brother from Kenya—was in a discipleship ministry working with students. He took the Kairos course and began to have his worldview changed. The ministry office in Kenya had copies of Mission Frontiers magazine. He read every issue page by page. Through it, he heard about the Perspectives course. 

The idea of the unreached began to affect his future career path, as well as that of a young woman who later became his wife. They thought they would be called to go to an unreached group and work directly themselves. Increasingly, they felt a call to mobilize others. A few years later, they established a mobilization and sending ministry. Now, they have sent seven couples and five singles into northern Kenya to work with unreached groups there. And, they have 14 full-time mobilizers sharing in churches and on campuses! All of them raise almost all of their own support! 

Sam is also the country coordinator for both the Kairos course and Perspectives in Kenya—so he is a key player in our Perspectives Global ministry. He is a joy-filled brother with a clear calling to motivate and send out laborers. I greatly enjoyed interviewing him and I can’t wait for you to hear his story.

How do we integrate business and missions?

Perhaps my most fascinating podcast interview was with a brother from a West African country. When I met this brother, I had already heard from others that he was indeed seeing God bless his businesses and ministry in many different ways.

 He is both a businessman and a pastor. He is working and praying to build up the region and create jobs and opportunity. He has a clear ministry happening which is integrated into businesses, which in turn, gives people needed jobs and spreads the gospel of the kingdom. How? 

They have a conference center/hotel that has 500,000 people passing through each year. He has a vision to expand the conference center/hotel (anyone want to invest?) and to actually build an airport to serve the region. 

They have 160 people who work full time for them—in various kinds of businesses. 

They loan money to 10,000 poor women to help them learn a trade to provide for their families—all while hearing the gospel. 

They have seen thousands of people from a different religious group which is strong in the area come to Christ! They have started churches and training programs for that too. 

Please pray for these brothers and sisters and pray with us that we can move forward in producing stories like this and get them out in a new podcast. We are working toward this and have a “publications” ministry planning time soon. Write to us if you want to hear as things progress. 

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

A Living Witness

Finding Pathways to Hope and Healing in North Korea (The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK)

A Living Witness

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ… If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”1 Corinthians 12:12, 26-27 (NIV)

For the last 22 years, Christian Friends of Korea (CFK), a small North Carolina-based NGO, has been quietly working in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK—North Korea). They have been sharing hope and healing in the name of Jesus Christ with the North Korean people by walking with them in their difficulty, hearing their stories and sharing their burdens. This is a remarkable story of God’s grace working through individuals from disparate communities, organizations, denominations, countries and backgrounds coming together—many over repeated visits—to serve as part of the body of Christ and demonstrate His love while impacting hearts on many sides of this great divide.


In the early 1990s, the evangelist Dr. Billy Graham was seeking ways to engage former Soviet bloc countries including the DPRK. His wife Ruth, the daughter of China missionaries, had attended a missionary boarding school called the Pyongyang Foreign School.  Through the network of the school, Dr. Graham was introduced to DPRK diplomats in New York which then opened doors for him to visit the DPRK. Following multiple advance visits to negotiate the terms of his visit, Dr. Graham traveled to the DPRK in 1992 and 1994. On both visits he and those with him met with then “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung. Dr. Billy Graham was declared “a friend” of the DPRK.

Early History of CFK

It soon became apparent through the very limited glimpses gleaned from these visits that the country was struggling deeply. Here was an opportunity for Christians to reach out to the country with humanitarian help, but this was not the traditional work of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) so another avenue was needed. It was decided that a new organization, not related to BGEA but made up of different people (many of whom had strong ties to missionary efforts in Korea) would form to engage in religious, educational and humanitarian projects and exchanges. In April of 1995, the Eugene Bell Centennial Foundation (to be renamed in 1998, Christian Friends of Korea) was formed to specifically engage with the DPRK. In July 1995, North Korea was devastated by catastrophic flooding that wiped out homes, destroyed crops, inundated coal mines and plunged the country into a severe and protracted famine that would last for most of the rest of the decade. During what is known in North Korea as “the arduous march,” at least one million people died of starvation and millions more were left severely weakened by disease and malnutrition. For the first time since the Korean War, North Korea appealed for help to the outside world.

The newly formed organization sprang into action, raising funds to send nutritious, unpolished brown rice from Louisiana to North Korea in sea containers. They insisted on monitoring the arrival and distribution of the food to provide accountability and transparency for donors and to build relationships and trust among the Korean people. During the first year of operation, over 250 metric tons of brown rice were sent to the DPRK, and through this work and that of other NGOs who also reached out to help, the world began to glimpse the tragedy unfolding there.

During that dark and especially difficult time, the country faced an unspeakable slow motion tragedy. People who had relied on the public distribution system all their lives waited too long for it to come through, only to realize too late that the rumors and promises were empty—no food was coming. The elderly and the young often died first. Entire families disappeared. People with blackened faces and bundles wandered the countryside in search of food, many lying by roadsides in their weakness and hunger. Loudspeakers mounted on some of the very few vehicles would travel through cities in the mornings, telling people who had collapsed by the roadside from hunger to move away from the streets where foreigners were to pass.

Work in Tuberculosis Opens

Tuberculosis (TB), an airborne communicable disease1, resurged in the population that was weakened by malnutrition. By late 1996 the North Korean government, learning of tuberculosis work done in South Korea by those within the Korea missionary network, asked for help with their tuberculosis problem. Our young organization hand carried medicine for a few hundred patients, and our visiting team was taken to a few TB treatment facilities, many of them surrounded by graveyards.

They found very sick patients in extremely basic conditions, with few resources to care for them. The needs were overwhelming—for food, for medicine, for microscopes and lab supplies needed for basic diagnostics, for blankets and medical supplies and for shelter. So we began to reach out to donors seeking help of any kind. Donors reached back, and CFK began to form partnerships with groups who had resources to share, but who did not have the capacity to directly engage their own work in the DPRK. Some gave in-kind donations of food, medicine and blankets. Others gave funds that we used to purchase lab supplies, basic equipment and medicine. And we continued to travel to North Korea to visit the receiving care centers, to make sure they received what we sent, to talk with them, to share donor lists (and tell them about so many people who cared enough to help) and to better understand their situation so we could better respond to their needs.

Elders Contribute to Critical Trust-Building Efforts

In the early days, our team often included retired missionaries to Korea—many of whom were born in Korea, who grew up there, spoke the language and understood the historical context and challenges of Korea. At the time they were in their 70s and 80s and travel to and in the DPRK was difficult, yet their presence was critical in breaking down early barriers of mistrust between DPRK officials and the American “foreign devils.” These were people who had shared their lives among the Korean people, including some who had attended the Pyongyang Foreign School   as teenagers. They shared memories of ice skating on the Taedong River and climbing Peony Point in Pyongyang before Korea was partitioned into North and South. Many had served their entire lives in Korea working in education, medicine, agriculture and evangelism. Their experience, cultural understanding, and evident love for the Korean people built critical bridges of trust and understanding. They came from different denominational backgrounds, different mission sending agencies and even different countries, but they shared the same heart for Jesus Christ and for making Him known through action (and word, when possible) among people who had largely been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. North Korean diplomats also visited North Carolina during this time, and they were shown warm hospitality by many of these people in their homes. They heard stories from their early days  in Korea and experienced first-hand their life-long love for the Korean people that in many cases spanned multiple generations of their families.

In 1998, Christian Friends of Korea changed its name from the Eugene Bell Centennial Foundation to better represent the organization’s identity and purpose in the DPRK. At the same time, we asked the North Korean government  to assign us specific places where we could work and visit repeatedly, allowing us to establish relationships and deeper levels of trust which we hoped would lead to more effective engagement and impact. We were assigned to work in two provinces (N/S Hwanghae) and the city regions of Kaesong and Pyongyang—while focusing our efforts largely on helping address the growing tuberculosis burden.

We were a tiny organization—only 1.5 paid staff, a handful of volunteers, a few key partners and some very faithful donors and prayer partners. But it was enough to launch us into a routine of 2–3 visits a year, to check on the arrival and distribution of shipments and to assess new needs while continuing to build trust and understanding.

Post-Famine Years Open New Opportunities

By the early 2000s, North Korea was beginning to emerge from the worst part of the famine. Even so, the needs were still overwhelming and life remained extremely difficult for most North Koreans. Grid electricity in the countryside was largely seasonal and extremely limited. Even in the capital city of Pyongyang the darkness was palpable, the streets empty of cars and bicycles, and life difficult for most. We continued sending shipments of food, medicine, and blankets, while also sending greenhouse kits, walking tractors, seeds and  other goods to help local facilities grow more food on site for their patients. The greenhouses and tractors proved to be a great help to each facility. Each greenhouse can produce one to three tons of food each year (usually three separate crops), and they are especially beneficial when winter temperatures outside remain well below freezing. Inside the greenhouses it is warm, and fresh greens—lettuce, spinach, crown daisy and onions—can be grown and harvested throughout much of the winter. Spring crops, including tomatoes and cucumbers, are also grown in the greenhouse, and other vegetables can be started inside as seedlings for transplanting outside, thus speeding the harvest.

We were working at three TB hospitals at the time and they needed generators to provide critical power. We sourced and sent generators to each one and also sent a team of technical volunteers to help install the generators at each facility. We faced a steep learning curve and many challenges, but these marked our first significant technical projects. Many more were to follow.

As we reached out to different ministries and groups for help with the needs that we were finding, the Christian Friends of Korea “family” began to grow. Our visits continued and more and more needs were identified, including many that required greater skills and more in-depth engagement to accomplish. Multiple organizations and churches partnered with CFK sending personnel and goods, ranging from food and medicine to medical equipment and supplies.

In 2006, we were asked to renovate the operating rooms of several hospitals where we were working. Renovation needs included lighting, heating/AC, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, plumbing, electrical, medical equipment and all the tools and supplies needed for the installation of all these things. Rob Robinson, a general contractor raised in Korea by career missionary parents, visited the DPRK with CFK and soon began to oversee and organize these projects. Every nut, bolt and screw had to be ordered, shipped and sent since it was next to impossible at that time to find construction materials on the local market. We had never done projects like this in North Korea, so there was a steep learning curve, not only for us but also for our DPRK counterparts. We assembled teams of skilled volunteers who worked together with North Korean counterparts side by side over many weeks, solving many problems, while bringing lasting change to each care center. Over the space of two years, five operating room renovation projects were completed at four hospitals, resulting in reductions in post-operative infection rates and significantly improved care for patients. Along the way, relationships between the external team and our DPRK nationals once marked by mistrust, misunderstanding and division began to give way to friendship, true partnership and hope.

In 2008, the U.S. Government offered large-scale food aid to North Korea in response to demonstrated humanitarian need. This aid was to be provided through two channels—a consortium of U.S. NGOs working together, and the UN’s World Food Program. At the request of both the U.S. and the DPRK governments, CFK joined a consortium of NGOs (also including Global Resource Services, Mercy Corps, Samaritan’s Purse, and World Vision) to deliver significant food aid to needy beneficiaries in Chagang and N. Pyongan Provinces. During the program, which lasted from the summer of 2008 until the spring of 2009, U.S. NGOs had 16 people living and working in the DPRK for most of the program (including many Korean speakers.) These people made over 1,500 visits to North Korean homes, food distribution centers, warehouses, baby homes, kindergartens and orphanages. Many  food  recipients  had never encountered an American before. Seventy-one thousand metric tons of food were delivered and distributed to over 900,000 beneficiaries. It was a herculean effort under very difficult circumstances with many pressures arising out of the charged political context that stretched every organization and person involved, but it also taught us valuable lessons and strengthened the credibility of our work and relationships in the DPRK.

CFK Invited to Help Address Core Needs

In late 2008, we were asked to visit the National Tuberculosis (TB) Reference Lab; a lab whose purpose is to provide the highest level of diagnostics in the country for TB/MDR- TB, downstream training and to help guide policy, qualitystandards, diagnostic protocols and disease control efforts for the country. We found a facility that was largely non- functional; it lacked for running water, electricity, lighting, heating/AC, functional cabinets/countertops, key pieces of equipment and critical supplies. The Ministry of Public Health had overseen our renovation projects at hospital operating theaters, and now they were inviting our help to renovate and equip this lab. With us that day was a general contractor, a biomedical engineer, a clinical lab expert, a plumber and our administrator. They represented three different organizations and were all people necessary to assess the project and help decide if it was feasible.

We knew we lacked the TB lab-specific technical expertise required to create a state-of-the-art reference lab, and we had no dedicated funding for what we knew would be an expensive renovation project, but we had learned that Stanford University’s School of Medicine had also been approached by the Ministry of Public Health to help with this lab. They applied for and received a grant for the equipment and initial training. CFK had strong logistical capability, export licenses, renovation expertise, volunteers, and established relationships and trust with the North Korean Ministry of Public Health. So, after prayer, many discussions and the negotiation/signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between us, in late 2008 we joined forces to do the project. We simultaneously began both the planning and our own fundraising efforts (for significant renovations) and after making several joint planning visits (together with Stanford partners) materials were ordered and shipped and renovations began in the fall of 2009 over a nearly month-long visit. We faced countless challenges, but step-by-step, we worked our way through them. By October 2010, after four more visits, major renovations were largely complete and we held a grand opening for the lab that was attended by the (then Vice) Minister of Public Health, UN agency officials and other dignitaries. The lab currently supports not only advanced TB diagnostics but also clinical diagnostics for integrated patient care. Since 2009, we have provided ongoing high-level training at  the lab, bringing TB lab experts and clinical lab experts  to build the knowledge and expertise needed for quality diagnostics. In 2011, we worked with our local colleagues to renovate the operating room at this hospital, and in 2013–14 we also jointly built a Training Center that is now in constant use supporting regular training for more than 50 doctors and nurses at a time. While the lab has truly been transformed from a rudimentary space to a state- of-the-art laboratory, it still faces many challenges. These challenges largely arise out of the external political context that greatly complicates the establishment of a reliable and secure supply chain; a chain needed for ongoing diagnostic activities and ready access to global developments and research. With North Korea facing an ever-expanding epidemic and one of the highest rates of TB in the world2, it is critical that this lab and two regional labs also in the process of development be able to function fully to address the urgency of this epidemic.

Clean Water Identified as a Critical Need

In the mid-2000s, care centers began to express a need for clean water. Upon further investigation, we found that many care centers were using shallow, hand-dug wells, nearby streams or unprotected springs for their source of water. With poorly-composted night soil (fecal sludge) widely used as fertilizer  on  agricultural  fields,  this  led to gastro-intestinal illness. We began exploring ways to address the need for clean water at many care centers. Working with another U.S. NGO, Wellspring for Life (who has worked to establish an indigenous water well drilling industry in the DPRK through the delivery of cable tool drilling rigs and training), we began to arrange for the drilling of deep water wells  at  our  supported  care centers and began researching sustainable ways of distributing the clean water within hospital complexes that had no central heating where temperatures  drop  well below freezing in winter. Working with dedicated, experienced volunteers and partnering ministries, we developed solar-powered, gravity-fed water systems. These systems use solar energy during the day to power a pump installed in a protected deep water well to move water  up to a large tank placed at a high point on the property (or on a tank platform). The water then flows by gravity from the tank through underground pipes to frost-free hydrants3. We installed our first such system in 2008, and have installed 17 more systems at different TB, hepatitis and pediatric care centers, all of which continue to supply clean water year round to their staff and patients with  very little maintenance or trouble. Once a well has been drilled or a reliable (protected) spring source identified, these systems can be installed over the course of two to five days by skilled volunteers who join our team from places as far flung as Norway, the U.S., Poland, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The transformation that takes place through the  provision of clean, protected water is immediate and lasting. Staff are freed up from the daily time-consuming chore of collecting water, often from contaminated and unprotected sources several hundred meters away. In new self-contained systems, the water is clean and protected, leading immediately to health improvements for staff and patients alike. With an abundant, sustainable water supply, we also see improvements in sanitation and cleanliness of the facility, and often the care center can expand their production of food because they now have ample water for irrigation of greenhouses and vegetable fields. The joy on faces when water comes out of the hydrants for the first time is a beautiful sight. We watch hearts and minds open as locals begin to wonder why people would come from  so far away, at great personal expense and risk, to work so hard to help their “enemies.” As of 2017, 18 care centers now have clean, protected, solar-powered water systems that are impacting the lives and health of the staff and tens of thousands of patients each and every year.

Our team members meet in Beijing just prior to going into North Korea. Each brings various skills and a heart for loving and serving Christ among the North Korean people. During our time in the country together, through our morning devotions and long days of working together and despite cultural and language differences, our hearts are knit together by a shared love for Jesus and for serving Him among the North Korean people. Together, by God’s grace, we seek to model how faith and daily life intersect as we work in community through sickness and health, hardship and challenge, danger and stress. Many volunteers return on successive trips, sharing their time, expertise, and friendship while living out their faith among our North Korean hosts and colleagues.

Tensions and Sanctions Pose Significant Challenges

The challenges, now more than ever before, are extreme. With the significant rise in tensions during 2017, sanctions and fear sharply increased, creating a whole cascade of new and more formidable barriers for ongoing humanitarian efforts. As of September 1, 2017, each U.S. passport holder can only visit the DPRK under “special validation passports”—that must be secured for every humanitarian visit—adding further administration, time and cost burdens. While BIS (Commerce) export licenses have been required for all US-sourced goods for some time, OFAC (Treasury) licenses must also be in place for any non-sourced goods. A wide array of materials is needed to complete renovation projects, clean water installations and TB/hepatitis diagnostics and while humanitarian exemptions legally remain they are buried in complex legal language. The perceived risks of violating sanctions have grown so significantly for third-party businesses engaged in the supportive work required by NGOs to deliver humanitarian aid (shipping, banking, supplying, etc.)  that longstanding activities are teetering on the edge of stopping entirely. Now every purchase, every transaction and every shipment faces intense scrutiny. Much more restrictive customs procedures in China have also raised administrative burdens significantly and have stopped some critical goods from transit through China—the main port of entry. Despite all the heightened risks, common grace is evident in the courage of our North Korean counterparts who have faithfully continued work on their side to facilitate ongoing efforts. Meanwhile, faith in the sovereignty and providence of God gives inexplicable peace and steadfastness to volunteers, partner organizations, prayer warriors and family members and donors, despite extreme tensions. We have been privileged to witness many miracles, big and small, in our work—including some that even our counterparts cannot help but admit.

Jesus’ final words on earth compel all who love him to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) No place and no people group is exempted from this commission. We are called to pray, to engage, to love, to serve and to honor our Lord’s name in the DPRK. May we, as the diverse body of Christ, be found faithful to be His hands and feet, to see with His eyes, to feel with His heart, to bear witness to His grace among the people of North Korea, and thereby to honor His name.

“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NKJV)

CFK’s Medical Engagement by the numbers (as of Dec 2017):

  • Visits since 1995: 83
  • Years of engagement: 22+
  • US volunteers/staff who have participated on DPRK visits: 1564
  • International volunteers who have participated on DPRK visits: 45
  • Days spent in DPRK by CFK teams: 1,041
  • Value of aid delivered: $89.55 Million USD ($14.7 million cash, $74.6 million in-kind)
  • TB, hepatitis and pediatric hospitals and rest homes regularly served: 30+
  • Lives impacted directly/indirectly: hundreds of thousands/millions

Aid Delivered:

  • Laboratories renovated: 366
  • Wells drilled: 27
  • Solar/gravity water systems installed: 18
  • Operating rooms renovated: 6
  • Training Center constructed: 1
  • Hepatitis B patients screened: 1500+
  • Hepatitis B patients started on treatment: 800+
  • Cans of meat: 1,138,256
  • Blankets: 35,972
  • Patient mat sets: 695
  • Medicine pallets: 169
  • Fortified meals: 332,316
  • Soup mix: 50,760
  • Hygiene kits: 23,839
  • Solar lighting systems: 47
  • Greenhouses: 500 (small); 114 (large)
  • Seed packets: 25,000
  • Motorcycles: 17 / Cargo tricycles: 12
  • Vehicles: 8
  • Small Tractors: 89
  • Water filter buckets: 963
  • Other support sent includes replacement plastic for greenhouses, spare parts for tractors, doctor and nurse kits, solar rechargeable lights, hospital furnishings and equipment, major renovations at multiple care centers, a roofing tile- making machine and many other smaller projects.

  1. For every year a TB patient goes without treatment, they can infect 10–15 others.
  2. North Korea was added to the WHO “high burden country” lists in 2016 for TB, and multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB. The 2016 World TB Report indicates that North Korea’s TB rate is now the highest in the world outside of HIV-co-infected countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
  3. The base of each hydrant is buried a meter underground in gravel, and there is a valve at the base of the hydrant that allows water to drain from the hydrant once the spigot is turned off. Since no water remains in the upright pipe to freeze, the hydrant can be used even in the cold of winter without fear of freezing.
  4. Number includes separate individual participants. Many among this number have participated on 10, 20 or more visits; one staff member has made 54 visits thus far.
  5. Only includes value of shipments, does not include the value of donated volunteer service hours.
  6. Includes the National TB Reference Laboratory and 2 solar-powered clinical (hepatitis) labs.

A Lesson from the Dump

On the outskirts of Kaesong, just beyond the thousand-year-old stone wall that rims the ancient city, is the dump. Fill dirt and refuse piles from the city are carried there by ox carts, small trucks, even bicycles—and dumped. Nothing is wasted in this country, so what finds its way here is truly trash. Small heaps of rocks, rubble, broken pottery, broken glass, rags and bits of refuse line both sides of the deeply pot- holed road. Here and there small fires smolder, wafting smoke and the smell of burning plastic into the air.

Our work takes us through this wasteland frequently on our way  to and from two adjoining care centers (one for tuberculosis (TB) patients, and another for hepatitis patients) so we see a lot of life outside the windows of our vehicle as we come and go on this road.

Last spring, I watched as a small family carefully and painstakingly transplanted three-inch-tall corn seedlings into a patch of this unlikely ground. For us, it was the start of a long day of seeing patients, and as I watched, a mix of feelings welled up in me including curiosity for this family and deep sadness at the circumstances that would motivate struggling people to invest precious time and effort to plant fragile seedlings into ground such as this—holding such little promise for a harvest.

The summer passed, and the rains were sparing. In our widespread travels in August we saw many corn fields stunted and unproductive, with stalks and leaves prematurely brown and small withered cobs on the stalks bearing out reports by UN agricultural experts of at least a 30% reduction in yield countrywide for the season.

In late August we returned, and drove again through the dump area on the way to our care centers. But now my eyes witnessed something completely unexpected. There, standing robustly out of that seemingly unproductive ground planted by that hopeful family earlier in the spring were strong healthy corn stalks, with long, fat and fully filled out ears ripe and waiting for harvest.

Here in the middle of a wasteland was production far beyond expectation.

In my spirit, I felt a gentle, loving rebuke: You look on the outside, but I look on the inside. You see the wasteland, but I see the promise. Only I know the ground that is being planted—you must only faithfully sow. I am the LORD of the harvest.

Praise be to God! May we plant with eyes of faith into the soil He provides, trusting that He will bring about an abundant harvest if only we remain faithful and don’ give up.

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

The Apostle Paul Didn’t Get the Memo

The Apostle Paul Didn’t Get the Memo

After decades on the mission field overseeing a school, John suddenly felt like his creative access strategy was somehow counterproductive. He hadn’t set out to become a seemingly eternal fund-raiser and project manager. The mixing of project money and mission work had caused more headaches and confusion than he cared to admit. His ability to be apostolic in nature—planting, watering, and moving on to others who have not heard— had been on hold for twenty years. 

Let’s take a detour from John’s journey to look in on the apostle Paul and his companions. 

Pisidian Antioch: “The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jews . . . stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.” (Act. 13:49–59 NIV) 

Iconium: “There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed . . . There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities.” (Act. 14:1, 5–6 NIV)

In Lystra: “At that the man jumped up and began to walk…Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city…. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.” (Act. 14:10, 19–20 NIV)

The list of times when Paul and his teammates were kicked out or left on their own due to strategic discernment goes on and on. It seems to me that Paul didn’t get the memo about creative access. Just think, if he’d had enough sense to start and fund socioeconomic projects, he would have been able to stay on more readily and regularly.

You might be asking, “Wow, are you anti-creative access in global missions?” No, I am not. But I am concerned about the way our creative access strategies to gain visas and permanency in countries can be counterproductive to our reason for being in cross-cultural contexts to begin with.

By the way, keep in mind the fact that although Paul, Barnabas and others were unable to stay in any one place very long, they planted sustainable and multiplying faith communities over and over again.

The story of “John” has already alerted us to two concerns in regard to creative access models. One: missionaries become managers rather than planters and fund-raisers rather than mentors. Two: the mixing of project funding and management with gospel work and discipling creates all kinds of confusion, mixed motives, and other problems. Allow me to add a third concern: the majority of our creative access approaches are not reproducible by cultural insiders, either within their own society or when they become missionaries in near cultures. Our mission modeling falls flat on its face when it comes to reproducibility and multiplication.

If all three of these weaknesses run through the veins of our mission work, then our creative access strategies have become counterproductive.

None of us set out with this intention. I would like to encourage you to adapt “phase-out eyes” as you consider your “phase-in eyes.” I came across the terms “phase-in eyes” and “phase-out eyes” via Tom Steffen,1 and I have addressed the practice in my book We Are Not The Hero.2 What often happens is that we work so hard figuring out how to creatively access countries that we forget to consider how to phase-out. The danger of this one-sided approach is that we don’t plan with local sustainability, reproducibility and multiplication in mind. All we care about is how we can gain access and produce fruit. This anemic approach undermines planting and encouraging an indigenous church that multiples many generations of disciples and goes beyond its borders.

As a reminder, the apostle Paul, his team, and his trainees did not rely on the Western-heavy creative access means that we tend to rely on today, and yet they were incredibly successful in reaching their world.

Let’s think more creatively about creative access. Are there ways we can creatively enter unreached people groups without imposing Western models of mission? I am not saying there are easy solutions to the challenges we face, but I do believe we need to keep the conversation going. When we consider our phase-in plan, let’s equally consider our phase-out plan, so we don’t become counterproductive to indigenous, grassroots local disciple and mission movements. 

We Are Not The Hero Participant’s Guide  and Videos

The readership of the book, We Are Not The Hero, have been asking for a participant’s guide and videos.

We are excited to announce the new release of We Are Not The Hero Participant’s Guide and Videos.

Launch each lesson with the Big Idea delivered through a video. Internalize and explore the content with stimulating Questions to Consider. Ensure you capture the important principles via Sum It All Up and Listen Up, which include proverbs from around the world. Apply the concepts and principles through Action Steps.

We Are Not the Hero provides the cross-cultural thinker and worker with postures, principles, and paradigms for global engagement that promote God’s best version  of people around the world, while setting aside their ethnocentric tendencies. In We Are Not the Hero, missionary Jean Johnson shares lessons learned from her sixteen years in Cambodia, in an area known as the Killing Fields, including why our Western culture, church experiences, and financial solutions to church growth are not the answer for the world.

For more information and samples, visit fivestonesglobal. org.


1 Steffen, Tom 1974 Passing the Baton: Church Planting that Empowers. La Habra, CA: Center for Organizational & Ministry Development, 4.

2 Johnson, Jean 2012 We Are Not The Hero: A Missionary’s Guide For Sharing Christ, Not A Culture of Dependency, Sisters, Oregon: DeepRiver Books, 175.

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Regardless of Opposition Our Mission Remains Unalterable

Regardless of Opposition Our Mission Remains Unalterable

North Korea! Perhaps no country on earth right now is at a more critical juncture in its history: determining whether its future is one of increased engagement with the world resulting in greater peace and prosperity for its people or increased isolation and potential conflict. The stakes could not be higher. As I write, U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to meet with Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea or DPRK. Our hopes and prayers are that this meeting will result in a breakthrough in peaceful relations between the DPRK, the U.S., South Korea and the rest of the world. 

But whatever the outcome of these meetings may be, the mission of Jesus followers worldwide remains unchanged and unalterable. For almost 2,000 years the mission that Jesus gave us has been to go to every people, make disciples, baptize and teach them to obey all that Jesus has   commanded.   (Matt.   28:18–20) Throughout Christian history this disciple-making mission has often faced brutal opposition from various religious and political forms of government. The faithful followers of Jesus have often paid a very high price to see the gospel of the kingdom advance. 

Jesus, Peter, the Apostle Paul and the early Church lived under one of the most brutal regimes in world history—the   Roman   Empire. How did Jesus teach His followers to respond to governments like the Romans where the gospel is not welcome? Was it to resist or overthrow them? Absolutely not; just the opposite. Jesus said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.” (John 18:38) Many Jews wanted Jesus to fulfill their desire to throw off Roman oppression, but Jesus had a different mission and we are to carry on that mission today. What was the model of ministry that Jesus used? 

Luke 9:1–2 provides one answer: “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases and He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” 

Jesus told His disciples to heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God—make disciples. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” Jesus takes it a step further in verse 16 of this same chapter when He says, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

This is exactly what dozens of faithful Jesus followers have been doing in North Korea for more than two decades. They have been healing the sick—providing care and hope to people trapped in desperate situations. They have been allowing the light of God’s love to shine in North Korea. Proclamation of the gospel is not permitted in North Korea. So these faithful servants of God are doing what they can to demonstrate the love of God by sacrificially serving the North Korean people. 

Our lead article, starting on page 8, is an amazing account of the tremendous efforts that have been made to ease the suffering of the North Korean people. Faithful workers have treated those with tuberculosis and hepatitis, provided clean water and much more. They have let their light shine in the darkness and brought glory to God. It is a silent but powerful witness that the Holy Spirit can use to change hearts and minds—and perhaps even the destiny of an entire people. 

These faithful servants of the North Korean people are following in the honored footsteps of previous generations of mission workers who followed the example of Jesus in healing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries faithful Jesus followers intuitively employed the model of Jesus in caring for those in need regardless of whether they would ever come to faith in Jesus or not. In many parts of the world these Christian workers started the first hospitals, schools and universities. Was this a distraction from sharing the gospel or did it actually empower the message of the gospel? I think the results speak for themselves as we read of growing movements to Christ throughout Africa and Asia where meeting felt needs demonstrates the power of God’s love and makes the gospel real for people—more than just mere words. 

Regardless of the politics or leadership of any nation, our global mission is clear. Our master and king, Jesus, gave us a clear command and a clear example to follow. Now it is up to each of us to decide what part we will play. 


Here    at    Mission    Frontiers    we continue in our quest to expand the impact and influence of this publication. The reason we do this is because we exist to help accomplish God’s highest purpose—to foster movements of discipleship and church planting in all peoples so that God would receive the glory and worship He deserves. Our job here at MF is to mobilize the global church with this vision. But we can only succeed in this mission if we can gain the support and partnership of people like you. Will you help us? There are several ways that you can help. 

Give Financially: While we appreciate the sacrificial donations of those who have contributed over the last two months, donor income has not even covered the cost of printing, not to mention mailing, graphics work or new translations. If you have thought about giving, now would be a great time to do so. 

Pray: Pray that God would supernaturally open doors of opportunity for MF to spread the vision of fostering kingdom movements in all peoples. Pray that God would provide the manpower to enable us to walk through these open doors. And yes, also pray that the financial resources would be available to expand the reach and influence of MF

Share: We want the information and vision contained in MF to be spread far and wide, but we need your help to do this. Download the pdf version of any article or issue of MF and share them with your friends. Visit www. 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 translate one of our website postings into German. Fantastic! Keep it up. Tell your friends about our website. Order extra copies for your friends, pastor, conferences or your missions committee. If you are a missions pastor or you teach missions, order copies for your students. We will send them to you for a nominal handling fee plus the cost of shipping. Supplies are limited but we will send what we have. Join us as we cast vision through Mission Frontiers. To God be the glory! 

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

The Case for Engaging North Korea

The Case for Engaging North Korea

On March 6th, 2017, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched four ballistic missiles, three of which landed 200 miles off Japan’s coastline. DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong-un promises nuclear-armed, intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the continental United States. The Trump administration is currently reviewing its policy options, such as preemptive strikes or total isolation of the North Korean economy.[1] Brookings fellow Evans J.R. Revere argues the rationale for total sanctions.[2]

A hard-line strategy is not likely to persuade the DPRK regime to give up its missiles and nuclear weapons. Nor will it garner the support of the South Korean public, which elected a center-left President (Moon Jae-in) on May 9, 2017. Most importantly, preemptive strikes or enhanced sanctions will delay ongoing economic reforms in North Korea and its integration into the global economy. Internal economic and social change is ultimately the only path to moderate the DPRK regime and its policies.

Containment and Engagement

Since 2012, Kim Jong-un has pursued a dual strategy of nuclear deterrence and Chinese-style economic reforms. The prudent response of liberal democracies is to contain the military ambitions of North Korea and to support the belated integration of its citizens into global society. For instance, the USA and its Asian allies could continue their strategy of overt (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THADD) and covert (e.g., cyber-warfare) actions against the DPRK military. At the same time, we should endorse the regime’s move to a decentralized, market economy, such as increasing the legal autonomy of business enterprises and allowing farmers to cultivate private plots or pojon (vegetable garden).[3]

Kim Jong-un is belatedly recognizing and legalizing the people’s de facto transition to a market economy, a process already started during his father Kim Jong-il’s regime. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the devastating famine in the 1990s destroyed much of the top-down, governmental distribution system. To survive, ordinary North Koreans created non-governmental markets for goods and services, at first rudimentary and illegal, later more sophisticated and (at least partially) legal (Andrei Lankov analyzes the transformation in Real North Korea 2013; Felix Abt offers a first-hand account in Capitalist in North Korea 2012). With economic recovery and growth, the DPRK has developed an expansive transportation system and a nationwide cellular network, with more than 3 million subscribers,[4] which furthers the flow of goods and information.

North Koreans are increasingly aware and desiring of goods, information, and personal contacts from the outside world. Economic reforms offer legal space for foreign tourists, volunteers, businesses, and NGOs to contribute to social and economic development and to interact with ordinary citizens. Jamie Kim, director of Reah International[5], has documented about 4000 activities carried out by 500 western organizations (governmental, NGO, private) from 2005 to 2012. Significantly, they included about 50, mostly small-staffed and USA-registered, faith-based organizations (FBOs), such as the American Friends Service Committee, the Eugene Bell Foundation and Global Resource Services.

Since 2012, many secular organizations have left North Korea because of international sanctions and reduction of western government funding. Faith-based organizations receive donations and voluntary labor from Christians and are relatively immune to the vagaries of government funding.[6]

Probably the most famous faith-based operation is the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology[7] (est. 2010). North Korea’s first private university, PUST is largely funded by evangelical Christians in South Korea, the USA and other countries. About 60 foreign Christian volunteer professors instruct 500 undergraduate and 90 graduate students, who represent the academic elite of North Korea. A few students receive scholarships to study abroad in prestigious universities (e.g., University of Westminster and Cambridge University in Britain, Uppsala University in Sweden[8]). PUST has received much media coverage and controversy, including a BBC documentary.[9] Former PUST instructors such as Helen Kibby from New Zealand have also uploaded their own YouTube videos.[10]

One long-term PUST professor writes, “Although foreign faculty and North Korean students are both pretty guarded in general, their interaction is changing year by year. After PUST was opened in 2010, students didn’t talk much with professors outside their classrooms for a while. As time went by, they built up trust with each other to some degree and the campus atmosphere got to warm up. That has helped them become more open to have closer conversations. Dynamic interaction between faculty and students happens during different contexts: class, lab and research, advising students, thesis defense, events and contests, sports day, eating lunch and dinner together at the cafeteria, etc. Nevertheless, there are always certain boundaries that they both are aware of to respect and protect each other overall.”

The numbers and activities of FBOs have increased in recent years, especially entrepreneurs who combine nonprofit and business activities. Gabe* (USA) organized North Korea’s first surfing camp in partnership with the state-run travel company (Korea International Travel Company) and an American FBO (Surfing the Nations). The initial camp in 2014 (July 28 to Aug. 6) attracted 19 surfers, instructors and safety personnel from the United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and Australia to North Korea’s east coast. The summer camp offers surfing and skating lessons and other cultural exchanges between local residents and foreign visitors (Korea Times, 27 August 2014). On August 2016, celebrity British vlogger Louis John Cole posted a YouTube video about the surfing camp,[11] which attracted more than 700,000 views and global media controversy (Guardian, Forbes August 18, 2016; NBC News Aug. 23, 2016).

Less publicized are the hundreds of small groups that legally visit North Korea through tourism companies. Kevin* (USA) participated in a 16-person tour group, which planted 2,000 trees and conversed with students (in English) at a foreign language middle school in the Rason region near the Chinese border. Kevin was one of around 100,000 annual tourists to North Korea, the vast majority of whom are Chinese.[12]  Kevin, Helen, Gabe, and Louis all find a deep longing among North Koreans, especially the younger and more-educated, to better themselves and to engage the outside world. They wish to inspire millions more international tourists, volunteers, and businesses to come to North Korea, develop its economy, and befriend its people.

A large body of academic literature finds a positive, symbiotic relationship between economic development and liberal democracy.[13] In particular, the growth of a stable middle class generates powerful demands for the rule of law (not of arbitrary rulers), more popular participation in politics and resistance to military adventurism.[14] Another body of literature stresses the moderating effects of interpersonal contact. People get to know each other as individuals rather than as representatives of disliked groups (e.g., DPRK, USA); and personal relations of trust and friendship erode one’s dislike and prejudice of the disliked group.[15]

Any interaction between North Koreans and the outside world that increases information exchange and economic opportunity should be welcomed; these are the seeds that with time and nurturing sprout into stout trees of liberty. Andrei Lankov reminds us that the transformation of the former Soviet Union ultimately came from within, from citizens who were exposed first-hand to the West. Notably, two Soviet students selected by Moscow for the first study abroad in the USA in 1958 ultimately became the top leaders of the perestroika reforms in the late 1980s. Both men later said that their one-year experiences in the United States changed the way they saw the world. 

Let a Million Deals Bloom: The Imperfect Pakistan Model

The Trump administration should remember the enduring lure and power of liberty and the hunger of ordinary people to better their lives. As the administration pursues the “big deal” to contain DPRK nuclear weapons, it should also support opportunities for ordinary North Koreans to trade, attend school, sell their produce, make foreign friends and to negotiate a million other “deals” to better their lives.

American hard-liners claim that enhanced sanctions forced Iran to the negotiating table and will do the same to North Korea. Iran is not a useful analogy. Iran possesses the most powerful military in the Middle East (outside of Israel),[16] and lacks a credible military threat from any of its immediate neighbors (especially after the US conveniently ousted Iraq’s Saddam Hussein). Its regime survival does not depend on a nuclear deterrent. In contrast, the DPRK regime feels incredibly vulnerable to the USA and its Asian allies and absolutely believes that nuclear weapon is its only means of survival.

A better analogy for American policymakers is Pakistan, another historically poor, authoritarian country who believes nuclear weapons are necessary protection against more powerful neighbors (notably India). In fact, India’s 1971 military intervention in Pakistan’s civil war (which helped Pakistan’s eastern state become an independent Bangladesh) spurred Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to start its nuclear weapons program as a matter of national survival. Washington has yet to finalize a deal to satisfactorily contain Islamabad’s nuclear and missile program from potential proliferation or theft.[17] Still, the USA maintains trade and diplomatic dialogue with Pakistan, which has contributed to its stability and an expanding middle class.[18] Growing  the middle classes of Pakistan and its neighbor India are ultimately the most effective path to moderate each country’s politics and to limit the risks of  military  adventurism,  state failure and terrorism. Likewise, we advise the Trump administration to engage in targeted or “smart” sanctions[19] that would contain DPRK nuclear and missiles programs, but not the socioeconomic aspirations of its emerging, entrepreneurial middle class.

Talking with DPRK Refugees and American NGOs

As the Trump administration reviews its policy options it would benefit from credible, first-hand information about what is actually happening inside the DPRK. The administration should be cautious about the testimonies of “celebrity defectors” who receive financial incentives to depict the DPRK regime in a negative, sensational manner (e.g., dumping Christian prisoners in hot iron liquid[20]). More credible and objective testimonials come from ordinary North Korean refugees, most of whom left DPRK for better economic opportunities, not political dissent, and from foreigners who have worked extensively in the DPRK.

  1.; http://www.
  1. RWP11-035_Norris.pdf; cles/2009-03-01/how-development-leads-democracy
  1. ion/2012/09/201291194236970294.html
  1.; pakistan/us-sanctions-7-pakistani-entities-over-missile-programme/ articleshow/56269406.cms
  1. korean-defector-testimonies-so-often-fall-apart

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Why We Should Still Give Engagement a Chance

Why We Should Still Give Engagement a Chance

In the past year, the security situation on the Korean Peninsula has shifted from bad to worse. North Korea not only tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile with the potential range to hit major U.S. cities, but it conducted its sixth nuclear test in September 2017. Each North Korean missile and nuclear test is met with additional calls for tighter sanctions against North Korea and isolation of the regime. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have lobbed words   at each other in a dangerous spiral of escalatory rhetoric. Under such conditions, one might conclude that this is the worst time for engagement with North Korea, whether this includes state-led diplomatic engagement between government officials, or civil society centered people-to- people engagement between non-state actors.  In fact, on September 1, 2017 the U.S. government instituted a de facto travel ban on Americans by invalidating U.S. passports “for travel to, in, or through North Korea.” The traveler needs to apply for a special validations passport, issued primarily to Red Cross workers and the press, for “compelling humanitarian considerations” or for other travel in “the national interest.[1]

Contrary to popular beliefs, this essay makes a case for why people-to-people engagement still matters, and how it might help us think about diplomatic engagement with North Korea.[2] There are both moral and political reasons to continue people-to-people engagement with North Koreans, despite current restrictions issued by the U.S. government against travel to North Korea. Drawing a distinction between the North Korean people and its regime, ordinary North Koreans tend to bear the costs of the regime’s isolationist and autocratic policies. North Korea’s per capita GDP in 2015 was $1,700.[3] Basic political freedoms, including the freedom of movement, assembly, or speech are severely restricted.[4] Nevertheless, everyday life goes on in North Korea, and signs of an emerging market economy suggest economic improvements in major cities, including Pyongyang.[5] However, the regime’s policies still lead to constant food shortages, malnutrition, and chronic illnesses.

Stripping aside politics, the moral case for continuing people-to-people engagement is straightforward:  to help improve the lives of ordinary North Koreans. Civil society actors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in such people-to-people engagement in North Korea are often motivated by a sense of mission that their work not only improves lives, but also fosters a sense of greater understanding between North Korea and the rest of the world. Examples of people-to-people engagement may include humanitarian assistance, such as the delivery of food aid and emergency supplies during periods of flooding and famine. It also takes the form of longer term, capacity-building projects. Projects and activities might include drilling wells, establishing greenhouses, providing technical assistance in the areas of agriculture and forestry, or operating tuberculosis and other health clinics. To a lesser extent, business operations with the goal of improving capacity and service, or meeting the everyday needs of North Koreans, also fall under the category of people-to-people engagement.[6]  Such business ventures have included the establishment of a noodle factory and the development of a logistics and transportation company to provide local bus service.

Several Christian and other faith-based organizations have made the case for pursuing people-to-people engagement including NGOs such as the Eugene Bell Foundation, Christian Friends Korea, Samaritan’s Purse, and World Vision. Having cultivated long-standing partnerships in North Korea, and driven by a sense of higher purpose, some faith-based groups have managed to sustain operations for over two decades in North Korea.[7]

For Christians, there is a higher calling, a sense of obligation to Christ’s command to love our neighbors, and even our enemies, which comes into play.[8] People-to- people engagement is much more than simply dropping bags of food aid or delivering medicine into North Korea. In addition to addressing real world problems, it calls on individuals and groups to build relationships and trust where mutual understanding may be absent. Actions often speak louder than words, and the work of several faith-based organizations has helped North Koreans trust outsiders (and vice-versa), despite these groups being conspicuously Christian and even coming from places such as the maligned, imperial (in the eyes of North Koreans) United States.[9]

There are both moral and political objections against people-to-people engagement with the two objections often conflated. Critics argue that such engagement indirectly benefits the regime.[10] Even if aid or development assistance is properly monitored and delivered to its intended targets (i.e. vulnerable populations and ordinary North Koreans), outside assistance enables the regime to redirect scarce resources needed to feed its people towards expanding its military capabilities. A fundamental point of disagreement among secular and faith-based groups alike working to improve human conditions in North Korea is whether outside assistance, including support from people-to-people engagement, ultimately props up the regime, thereby prolonging suffering among North Koreans.

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan stated, “A hungry child knows no politics.”[11] This suggests our response to need and suffering should rise above politics. International politics, unfortunately, tends to be driven by the “is” rather than the “ought.”[12] However, just as there are moral and political objections against engagement initiatives, there are also justifications on moral and political grounds for taking action.

People-to-people engagement provides a low cost means for outsiders to generate positive relationships with North Koreans. Outsiders, some who have engaged with North Korean counterparts since the famine of the 1990s, have perhaps the best grasp of North Korean norms, culture, thinking, and knowledge of daily life. Meanwhile, people- to-people engagement offers North Koreans a channel for receiving information related to markets, business and legal practices, and capacity-building principles which may spur greater curiosity and a hunger for knowledge beyond what the state can provide. By fostering better communication and understanding between North Koreans and the outside world, people-to-people engagement may be laying the groundwork for potential transition, whether that be the gradual opening of North Korea through reforms, or future reunification.

Finally, the current nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula warrants keeping open any channels of dialogue which offer an off-ramp away from armed conflict. The Trump administration has sent mixed signals regarding North Korea, ranging from threats of annihilation to suggesting the possibility of direct talks with its leader [which are now being planned for May,2018]. This has created confusion among both domestic and foreign audiences. However, in practice, the official policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” can be read as tightening sanctions but leaving a door open for engagement.

Although engagement here refers primarily to diplomatic engagement, it can and should include people-to-people engagement. It is unclear whether successful lower levels of engagement can translate into higher forms of engagement in North Korea. However, in the absence of diplomacy, people-to-people engagement is one of the few means of contact between Americans and North Koreans. Moreover, the longer-term effects may be positive if attitudes of local cadres and provincial leaders towards Americans begin to shift. Finally, by encouraging low levels of engagement, the Trump administration can provide a diplomatic opening for the South Korean government to continue pursuing its desired strategy of inter-Korean engagement, even as Seoul and Washington continue to apply pressure on the North Korean regime. For instance, South Korea recently approved $8 million dollars of aid to the World Food Program and UNICEF directed towards providing nutrition to children and pregnant women, and vaccinations and treatment for diseases.[13] While the timing of such goodwill gestures may be questioned given North Korea’s continued expansion of its missile and nuclear program, and with critics labeling such actions as “appeasement,” such gestures do signal to the regime that the path to engagement and dialogue still remains open.

Hard-nosed realists assume that the surest bet to survival includes maximizing a nation’s military capabilities.[14] This has been the path adopted by the North Korean regime, and at times exercised by the U.S. in the latest security standoff on the Korean Peninsula.  However, realism, as a foreign policy guide, also calls for pragmatism and prudence in foreign policy. I do not suggest an end to economic sanctions or the removal of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula, all which serve an important purpose for deterrence, reassurance, and credibility in a region fraught by wider geopolitical and historical tensions. However, the current balance of sticks (that is coercion) and carrots (diplomatic engagement) has clearly not reduced tensions on the Peninsula. To provide an exit strategy from the current path of escalation and to avert an impending crisis, it may be more prudent to reshuffle the ratio of sticks to carrots to include more carrots (that is engagement) to persuade Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table.


[1] See US State Departments travel advisory to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK):

[2] A focus on engagement does not imply that coercive actions such as sanctions should be abandoned, nor does it imply that engagement is the only tool to improve relations with North Korea.

[4] United Nations Human Rights Council. 2014 "Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea." Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations Human Rights Council.

[5] Demick, Barbara. 2009 Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. New York: Spiegel &

Grau; Smith, Hazel. 2015 North Korea: Markets and Military Rule. NY: Cambridge

University Press.

[6] Yeo, Andrew I. 2017 "Evaluating the Scope of People-to-People Engagement in North Korea, 1995–2012." Asian Perspective 41:2, 309-39.

[7] Zadeh-Cummings, Nazanin. 2017 “True believers: Faith-based NGOs in North Korea,” March 14,

[8] Biblical verses include Luke 4:18; James 2:14-16; Isaiah 58:7

[9] Of course, the regime has also benefited in the material sense from people-to-people engagement, therefore permitting faith-based NGOs to operate in North Korea. However, it is paradoxical that some of the longest serving organizations have been faith-based given the regime’s relative intolerance towards religion. I suspect this has to do with the higher “tolerance” faith-based organizations are initially willing to put up with when confronted by bureaucratic challenges and North Korean demands. However, the durability of faith-based programs may also be attributed to greater familiarity and trust between local counterparts and foreign organizations.

[10] Noland, Marcus. 2011 “Food Aid Debate Continues.” Witness to Transformation Blog. May 10,; For an excellent, in-depth experience and discussion on providing humanitarian assistance to North Korea after the famine of the 1990s, see Snyder, Scott and Gordon L. Flake. 2003 Paved with Good Intentions: The NGO Experience in North Korea.  Westport, CT: Praeger.

 [11] Quoted in Lim, Wonhyuk. 2006 “When in Doubt, Blame South Korea: The Politics of Food Aid to North Korea.” Brookings Institution, February 16.

[12] Morgenthau, Hans. 1967 Politics among Nations; the Struggle for Power and Peace. 4th ed.  New York,: Knopf.

[13] McCurry, Justin. 2017 “South Korea approves $8m aid package for North Korea,” The Guardian. September 21,

[14] Mearsheimer, John J. 2001 The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. 1st ed.  New York: Norton.

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

24:14 Coalition Update

God is moving!

24:14 Coalition Update

Without a full representation of the Church, we are incomplete. The lost desperately need you to be a part of this fight. Visit our website at or email [email protected] to learn more and get involved.

The 24:14 vision is to see movement engagements in every unreached people group and place by 2025 because we realize that the only way to effectively reach a group or place is through movements of multiplying disciples, churches and leaders. To facilitate that vision, groups of nationals and expats are meeting in each region of the world to engage that vision with urgency.

Recently a group of movement leaders from a large region in Asia met to discuss and pray about God’s plan for the 24:14 effort in their region. The stories of the “book of Acts” like movements in this region were amazing as multiplying disciples and churches are arising in many people groups, language groups, and communities—usually despite significant persecution. They are showing God’s love by healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching literacy, doing disaster relief, transforming communities and in many, many more ways than can be described here.

This group of movement leaders felt that since God was already moving in such mighty ways, the goal for their region should be not just movement engagement by 2025, but rather to pray and work together to see at least 4th generation multiplication of churches in every one of the thousands of people groups, language groups, and districts by 2025.

One local leader said, “We know this is not the case for other parts of the world, but for our part of the world, God is doing so much that we could almost accomplish movement engagement everywhere by continuing our current efforts. Praying and working to see 4th generation multiplication in every group and district is something only God can do.”

Since the last edition of Mission Frontiers, the 24:14 Coalition has been gaining momentum and making strides toward the goal of total Church Planting Movement (CPM) engagement by 2025. Here’s some of what God has done through 24:14 in the last two months:

  • Data. CPM organizations and leaders are sharing their data like never before on CPM engagements and movements. As we collect more data, the number of known CPMs globally continues to grow and has shattered our most optimistic estimates from a year ago. We are tracking 652 CPMs (at least four separate streams of at least 4th plus generations of new churches in a relatively short period of time) but that number will be surpassed by the time this is in print. These movements are on every continent so that they provide models to practitioners in virtually every geographic region and major worldview.

However, there is still a long way to go and many gaps, which is why we are working to leverage this data to accelerate engagement of gaps.  One example of this is a meeting with leaders from six different movements where they shared which districts of a large region had multiplying streams of churches from their movements. They realized between all of them, 21 of the districts had multiplication but seven did not. Immediately they began to make collaborative plans to start work in the seven neglected districts. With thousands of unreached people groups remaining, we still need thousands of CPM strategy engagements to effectively reach them.

  • Movements Heat Map. One way we plan to leverage this data is in developing a “heat map” that graphically represents CPM data—where there are movements and movement engagements, and where there are not. We are still working through security protocols to ensure that any data shared will not compromise local leaders and churches. However, our hope is that we will be able to share actionable insights with the mission community based on hard data to inform movement engagement decisions.

Security of local disciples is of utmost importance in this effort. Recently, we had a dialogue which led to the conclusion that we can share this data on a country or regional level without unnecessary risk.

  • CPM Hubs System. When God begins to do the same process with unrelated people around the world, we must pay attention. In the last few years, we have seen a great increase in a “CPM Hub training system approach” where God has given the same basic ideas to many people in different contexts. 24:14 as a global movement includes many of these people running hubs and we are now working to help tie these various CPM hubs into a relational global hub system.

As part of the 24:14 vision we have to train many more CPM catalysts and this emerging hub system seems to be one way God is going to prepare many more catalysts. Hubs can be developed from any organization, team, or network. Our desire in connecting these hubs is to develop more consistency in “CPM deliverables”— head (knowledge), heart (character), hands (abilities), and house (who to relate to and how). A key goal is to link workers to effective coaching and training through a residency program in a series of CPM hubs from their home context to cross-cultural contexts that act   as an on-ramp to effectively engaging a UUPG with a movement strategy.

  • Global Stewardship Team. In order to fully engage every unreached people and place by 2025, there must be regional champions that own the vision. To that end, we are recruiting stewards to join the Global Stewardship1 Team (GST), who commit to helping serve regions/countries in order to get to total engagement. These individuals are responsible for tracking CPM engagements in their area and recruiting/equipping workers to engage the gaps. We have begun getting traction with CPM leaders globally to adopt regions and countries in this capacity and continue to aggressively recruit GST members with the goal of having stewards covering every UN region, country, Omega zone (geographic region of 3 to 9 million people), and Omega district (geographic region of 50,000 to 150,000 people).

Security is an issue in some areas, but we are setting up email channels for people interested in various countries, regions, zones, and districts to be able to contact 24:14 stewards for that area to see how they can partner in movement efforts through prayer, funding, translation, field efforts, etc.

  • Regional Meetings of CPM Leaders. One way we are building a network of global stewards is through regional 24:14 summits. During these summits, CPM leaders from the region (both nationals and expats) gather to seek God’s heart for their region and to explore how they might partner together to fully engage their region with movement strategies.

One such meeting is the Asian region described above, where a representative group of the region’s CPM leaders agreed to partner together as a regional 24:14 team to pursue their vision: “Movements collaborating to see 4th generation movements in every language, people, and place in the region and beyond by 2025.” Similar meetings across the globe have either recently happened or are currently scheduled, such as ones for South America, Eurasia, North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Our goal is to have these types of consultations resulting in regional 24:14 teams for every region of the world.

  • Hot Coals Strategy Formulation. One of the most effective ways we see movements starting today is through “hot coals” from the fires of one movement being transplanted into a spiritually dark place to jump-start a new movement. One of our task forces is focused on developing thought-leadership in this approach by collating case studies where this approach has been effective. Our goal is to have a process where large movements can send catalysts to unreached areas to jump-start new movements, further accelerating engagement in the darkest places.
  • For example, a task force leader recruited 66 leaders from a near-culture CPM to go to the oppressed “Ro” UPG refugees in their country. Their goal was not to incorporate new believers and churches into their movement but rather to see God start a new movement among these people. Their vision was “don’t the Ro people deserve a movement of God also?” Over a three-day period of time, 681 Ro people heard a clear explanation of the Word of God and 399 Ro people accepted Christ. Nine months later, there are 12 potential 4th soil Ro leaders being discipled and a budding movement with a handful of 5th generation churches.
  • God is moving; will you join us? In order to fulfill the Great Commission, the entire Body must work as one. 24:14 is not an organization, but is an open-membership coalition of individuals, organizations, churches, and networks committed to 1) fully reaching the unreached peoples and places of the earth, 2) through kingdom movement engagements, 3) with urgency by 2025. As you commit to these three things, you join thousands of others who are in this coalition.




1 We call these facilitators “stewards” using the Biblical language that Paul used to describe his desire to be faithful with the regions and responsibilities God had entrusted to him. This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. (1 Cor. 4:1-2, ESV)






This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

In Otto’s Memory

Developing Peaceful Tourism in North Korea

In Otto’s Memory

In light of the tragic death of Otto Warmbier, the Trump administration has temporarily banned Americans from traveling to North Korea, and Congress is considering a permanent ban. Representative Joe Wilson (South Carolina), the co-sponsor of the North Korea Travel Control Act declared, “Tourist travel to North Korea does nothing but provide funds to a tyrannical regime—that will in turn be used to develop weapons to threaten the United States and our allies.”

We very much understand the concerns regarding Americans detained in the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). We acknowledge the inherent dangers and complications of international tourism to the DPRK, and urge would-be tourists to exercise prudence and to follow all applicable laws. At the same time, we wish to inform our representatives of the many positive things happening in North Korea which are directly related to tourism, and our motivation for providing such services.

One of us (Paul) has been involved with humanitarian work in North Korea since 2007. Paul has personally made 17 trips into North Korea, a country of more than 25 million people. One capacity is as an NGO worker for a water project, which drills wells in villages to access clean water. The second is leading tour groups. Paul has been doing so since 2012 and does the work not for any material gain, but to help improve the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea is not yet open to the point where foreigners can visit on their own terms.  Tourists are not going to be able to land in Pyongyang, rent a car and drive around at their leisure. Tours take place under controlled circumstances; hence groups have official guides, are not allowed to wander off the beaten path and a preset itinerary is often strictly (yet not always) adhered to. The good news is, in our experience, tourists are given more latitude every year and North Korea is in the slow process of opening their doors.

When visiting, foreigners only get to see pieces of the entire picture. Please understand, however, that this picture is constantly changing. We might not be able to connect with everyone we see, but we connect with many. Today, North Koreans cannot easily travel outside. On tours, we are able to see and enter into their culture, but the door swings both ways, as they meet us and encounter ours. We get a glimpse into each other’s lives. For every foreigner who visits North Korea, bringing their culture and ideas, it not only helps local North Koreans get a better picture of the outside world but also opens their country even further. This is the kind of positive engagement no official strategy is currently taking advantage of. Nonetheless, it is happening on the ground and, we believe, making a significant difference.

Today we are also able to do a surprising amount of direct engagement, not only through regular tourism but also sports cultural exchanges. Paul specializes in this type of engagement and headed a project that officially introduced surfing to the country in 2014. Our group made subsequent surfing cultural exchange trips in 2015 and 2016. We also engage locals (esp. kids) with skiing/snowboarding and skateboarding.

Our experience is that this kind of engagement has absolutely made a positive impact in how North Koreans relate to not only foreigners in general but specifically to Americans. Every wave, every smile, every hand shake, every kid we get on a surfboard or skateboard, every person we get on skis or a snowboard, every conversation, every high-five is beneficial in breaking down barriers which exist between North Korea and the rest of the world. A YouTube video of a recent trip attracted more than 290,000 views worldwide.1

It is always gratifying when tour group members find opportunities to engage. Maybe it’s a local guy riding a bike down the street in Pyongyang or Wonsan and someone from my group tries to high-five them. It might be awkward for the guy but, more often than not, the North Korean local tries to return the high-five. One of our groups held a ping-pong tournament with local North Korea surf camp participants. After the tournament finished, we were getting ready to leave and the lady who took care of the room came in to straighten things up. The man who runs our surf camps saw an opportunity to bless this lady, so he asked one of our guides to translate for him. He then thanked the lady for taking care of the room and told her what a great time we had and how much we appreciated her job. He then picked up a vase of plastic flowers from a table, flowers which belonged to the room she took care of and presented them to her.

The cleaning lady began to tear up. Why? Because a foreigner’s expression of love and thankfulness touched her heart. She was not “elite.” She was simply a middle age North Korean lady, who was able to engage with a group of tourists.

We wish to inform our Representatives that things are slowly opening up and every year there are more opportunities for engagement. People visiting North Korea should be seen as helping to assist this process. According to North Korean tour guides, not counting Chinese, approximately five thousand international tourists visit the country annually. To quote Daniel Jasper from American Friends Service Committee, “there is no substitute for the firsthand experience and insights that come from regular interaction and communication.”  Even though traveling to North Korea carries risks, those are minimized if we operate within their legal rules and boundaries. The DPRK government gives us very strict parameters in which we must operate, and I stress this in my briefings to potential tourists. Since 2012, our tour groups have been blessed to interact with thousands of local people, and we have never left anyone behind.

In his travels to North Korea, Paul has observed countless checkpoints where local citizens are literally asked, “Comrade, papers please!” For most North Koreans, freedom of travel is not something they enjoy as they are required to obtain government permission to travel even to the next town. Our Representatives are proposing legislation which would impose a travel ban on American citizens. We understand their good intentions, but freedom of travel is a bedrock American value and Americans have traditionally maintained it despite the dangers.

We have only scratched the surface but there is a lot going on in the country which should be supported by the U.S. government as well as the international community. Restricting the travel rights of Americans only serves to keep North Korea in its isolated state as well as violate our freedoms.

We—NGO workers and volunteers who have devoted our lives to the people of North Korea—deeply feel the shock and pain of Otto’s tragic death. We grieve for the loss of the young man and pray for the Warmbier family. At the same time, we feel that Otto would have shared our goals and beliefs— that the long, difficult road of helping North Korea open up ultimately benefits both the people there and the world community.

By all accounts, Otto was a kind-hearted, warm soul, eager to make friends in new places. We have many tourists like Otto, who genuinely wish to make a positive, personal impact. We hope that relevant stakeholders learn from the inexplicable tragedy and make all efforts to ensure that international tourists travel safely and follow local guidelines.

We cherish Otto’s memory and trust that the people of North Korea would someday do the same. We believe that our Representatives can best honor his memory by letting us continue the work of peacefully opening up North Korea.

Paul is a pseudonym of an American NGO worker in North Korea. Paul  wrote this essay with Joseph Yi, who  is a volunteer supporter. Joseph Yi is associate professor of political science at Hanyang University ([email protected] This article was supported by Hanyang University Research Fund.

This article originally appeared in The Diplomat (5 August 2017). Reprinted with permission from the Diplomat Media Inc.

1 Fun For Louis, North Korea Day 7, watch?v=tGJH-S8bfgw&list=PLKdBO8TXUFBgaqcNCd8xyokjUFEd- Uu9LU&index=7 , August 16, 2016 

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Hope for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in the DPRK

Hope for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in the DPRK

Treatment for children with developmental disabilities is available for the first time in the DPRK. Prior to this project, no official specialized medical training or therapy existed for children with cerebral palsy or autism in the DPRK. Both were considered untreatable or were treated with lack of expertise. Worldwide, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.3 out of every 1,000 children are affected by cerebral palsy and 1 out of every 110 children are affected by autism. Therefore, specialized treatment of pediatric developmental disabilities was a great need in the DPRK. 

Now, through one American family, treatment for children with developmental disabilities has begun in the Kim Il- sung University Pyongyang Medical School Hospital. Although this family has been working and living in the DPRK for over ten years, they moved to the capital city of Pyongyang in 2013. They became the first American family to send their children to the Pyongyang Korean School for Foreigners and to reside within the apartments of the Foreign Diplomatic Compound. There have been many firsts for this unique American family, but the greatest firsts have been in the strides made for the rights of children with disabilities within the DPRK.

With skills in rehabilitation medicine and special education, this family is implementing, for the first time in the DPRK, treatment and education for children with developmental disabilities in the medical university system. Initially, the local hospital administrator did not acknowledge that developmental disabilities, such as cerebral palsy and autism, existed in the nation. However, as patients came to be treated in the hospital, the need to treat pediatric developmental disabilities was officially recognized.

One of the first patients with cerebral palsy who brought awareness to disabilities throughout the nation came in the fall of 2013. She was ten years old at the time and diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia. This young girl could not walk, so her classroom teacher would strap her to her back and carry her to school every morning. Once at school, her teacher would then strap her to her chair so she could listen to class lectures. This girl’s greatest dream was to walk to school one day with the rest of her classmates. Following the beginning of official treatment for children with cerebral palsy in 2013, she was finally able to receive medical care. After approximately 11 months of therapy, she realized her dream: she walked out of the hospital! The local broadcast network came and televised her discharge and today she is attending school with the rest of her classmates. She now has a new dream to become a rehabilitation doctor so that she, too, can help children like herself.

Thousands of children like her are waiting in the DPRK for medical treatment and many of them have never attended school. Through this family and the establishment of a therapy program for children with developmental disabilities, other children now have hope for the future.

After the hospital’s successful treatment of children with cerebral palsy, the Department of Public Health began establishing pediatric rehabilitation centers in all 10 provincial children’s hospitals. In addition, a cohort of doctors is being trained in treatment methodologies at Kim Il-sung University Pyongyang Medical School Hospital. The government has ensured the development of this specialty within all 10 medical schools in the country by signing an agreement with the sponsoring NGO known as IGNIS Community. Even the former leader, Kim Jong-il and the current leader, Kim Jong-un have signed off on this project!

But the story does not end there. Now, with the help of a partnering American therapist, the program for children with developmental disabilities has expanded to include not only children with cerebral palsy, but also children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Prior to June 2015, there was no diagnosis or therapy of any kind available for children with ASD in the DPRK. ASD was essentially unknown and both children with ASD and their parents struggled as they tried to cope with the challenges that faced them with neither resources nor skills.

In two short years, the Pyongyang Medical School Hospital has made great strides in learning about ASD and the therapies available. In cooperation with the DPRK government Ministries of Public Health, the hospital has hosted a series of four separate weeks of lectures and hands- on therapy skills training provided by IGNIS Community volunteers. Doctors who have participated in this training will be the pioneers of ASD therapy in the nation. In addition to specific skills and techniques in facilitating social interaction and communication in children with ASD, the training content also included foundational theories and philosophies of practice. Through the lecture content and discussions about different models of disability, whole child development and the importance of cultivating trusting relationships with children and families, attitudes and perspectives of both doctors and families have changed.

A seven-year-old boy with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) walked into the therapy room with his mom, his eyes wide and face ashen with fear. He had never spoken before and could not attend school because of his challenges with sensory processing and social communication. He could not tolerate anyone near him and responded by crying out in fear or spinning a toy to help relieve his anxiety. By the end of a 30-minute therapy session, he was engaged in a beautiful, back-and-forth tickle game with the therapist, laughing loudly and deeply. He excitedly grabbed the therapist’s hands and placed them on his stomach and even spoke his first partial word to ask for more tickles! His mom, with tears in her eyes, said that this was the happiest she had ever seen her son.

Another mom of an eight-year-old boy with ASD openly shared her struggles of raising a child with special needs. Her despair turned to hope as the therapists listened to her, encouraged her, and reassured her that she is not alone.

These are just a few of the stories of hope and healing that have taken place in the lives of children and families who come to the new pediatric therapy clinic started by IGNIS Community at Kim Il-sung University Pyongyang Medical School Hospital.

Besides the lecture component, the ASD training series has also included a significant amount of hands-on training. Morning lectures about theory and techniques are then implemented in the therapy clinic in the afternoon.  The techniques are first modeled by the visiting western therapist and then each therapist-in-training has had the opportunity to practice the skills they have learned    as they engage with a child with ASD and his caregiver. Each therapy session is followed by a time of debriefing and questions. The DPRK therapists and other observers have noted this debriefing time as one of the most helpful methods of learning for them, enabling them to see how techniques can be utilized and adapted to real-life situations based on the child’s individual needs.

The doctors are eager to learn and are motivated to help children with the new skills they are acquiring. The hospital, now equipped with basic developmental milestone charts and ASD screening materials, is screening each child that comes through its doors for ASD and other developmental delays.

Pyongyang Medical School Hospital has seen this training series as valuable and has invited others to join their learning. As of June 2017, a total of over 30 doctors from Pyongyang Medical School Hospital, Pyongyang Children’s Hospital and the DPRK Disability Federation have taken part in the lecture series. The Assistant Director and Chair of the Neurology Department at Munsoon Rehabilitation Center have also expressed interest in participating in future training.

The lecture series on ASD has not only been helpful for doctors and therapists providing direct care; but has also caught the increasing attention of government officials from The Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Public Health. Their increased awareness and education about ASD is crucial in the adaptation of the medical system and formation of policies to include the diagnosis and care for children with ASD and other developmental disabilities.

IGNIS Community envisions that through the training of medical students in rehabilitation specialties, through empowering parents and through igniting change in the society’s perspective of disability, children with cerebral palsy, ASD, and other developmental disabilities will be transformed to their full potential and be able to participate in their community. Child by child, one family and one doctor at a time, we are seeing this vision become a reality.

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Tribute to Jim Downing

A Pioneer of Discipling Movements August 22, 1913–February 13, 2018

Tribute to Jim Downing

Editor’s Note: I first met Jim Downing in 1990 just after joining the U.S. Center for World Mission, now Frontier Ventures. I was very impressed by Jim’s passion for discipleship and completing world evangelization. That passion continued to burn brightly throughout his life. I was honored to work with Jim and Robby Butler on the Jan-Feb 2011 issue of MF. This collaborative effort was the beginning of my journey to discover the power of movements—unbroken chains of multiplying disciples—and changed my understanding of the missionary task. Jim’s life as a disciple-maker and movement catalyst will be the most important and longest-lasting impact of Jim’s very amazing life.

Note the dates; that’s no typo. Jim lived 104½ years! He liked to observe that the very young and the very old track their ages in fractions.

Jim’s distinguished military career  included the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, where Jim repeatedly told God, “I’ll be with you in a minute.” But God had other plans. A decade later Jim commanded a ship in the Korean War, and he lived to be among the oldest living survivors of Pearl Harbor. In Jim’s last decade he became a talk-show celebrity and met several U.S. presidents. Jim’s 2016 autobiography, The Other Side of Infamy, made him the world’s oldest male book author.

But the distinguished career, public spotlight, and world record were all secondary to Jim. His passion was making disciples who make disciples. Jim approached interviews as an opportunity to influence his interviewers and audience for Christ. Jim included his testimony in his autobiography and was determined for everyone in the military and their families to have the opportunity to read it. 

Upon experiencing the joy of knowing Christ in 1935, Jim became the sixth sailor to join Dawson Trotman’s fledgling Navigator ministry.

Just three months later, four of the first five Navigators had left military service, and the fifth deferred to Jim’s leadership. “The future of the Navigators depends on an inside man in the Navy,” Jim thought. “I am willing to be that man.”

Jim re-enlisted to lead a residency program that won, prepared and sent reproducing disciples throughout the Navy. Dawson later estimated that under this first decade of Jim’s leadership and by the end of WWII, the Navigator discipling movement had spread to 1,000 ships and 1,000 military bases. Today the Navigator ministry is in more than 100 countries.

Jim’s involvement with the Navigators[iii] spanned more than 80 years, including 20 years as board chairman and nearly 35 years after his 1983 retirement, at the age of 70.

In the early 1990s, when Jim was already nearly 80, Ralph Winter invited him to visit the USCWM to regularly disciple its young leaders. Jim seemed to take special notice of me as Ralph Winter’s personal assistant, and we forged a lasting friendship.

Almost two decades later Jim traveled to invest in my life again. I was studying and praying about how to better mobilize the church and was drawn to focus on reproducing discipleship. In March 2010 I called Jim.

“I have some questions about Trotman’s vision for discipleship,” I said.

“Let me come visit you,” Jim replied.

Just the previous month Jim had lost Morena, his wife of 68 years. He was 96½, and ready for whatever God had next. God gave Jim the word “availability” for this season, and he traveled, discipled and spoke through December 2017, well past his 104th birthday, Jim made everyone feel special. He was comfortable among those of high position, but never carried an air    of self-importance and was concerned for the spiritual state of everyone he met. When Jim saw me in 2010, he resumed discipling me by discussing his next steps for discipling David, a young man who had helped care for Morena.

Jim was as eager to learn as to teach. Shortly after a Simply the Story[iv] trainer demonstrated the use of Bible storytelling in discipleship, I saw Jim use Bible storytelling with a gathering of veterans. When I talked with Jim about Avery Willis’s “Discipleship Revolution”—based on Avery’s collaboration with Real Life Ministries (RLM) in Idaho— Jim got interested as well.

In April 2010, just before Avery passed away, Jim and I traveled to New Orleans to experience the RLM model. Jim told me it was “the best church-based model of discipleship I have ever seen.”

Jim was nearly 100 then and had then been actively discipling for 75 years. His endorsement of RLM emboldened me to draw a dozen others (including MF editor Rick Wood and his wife) to a second presentation of the RLM model at Navigator headquarters a few months later. There Rick asked me for an article on RLM. With Jim’s support I countered by offering to prepare a whole issue on discipleship and discipling movements (Jan/Feb 2011)[v].

Jim contributed two articles for that issue: one emphasizing insights from Ralph Winter[vi] that impacted Jim during his 1990s visits to the USCWM and the other on knowing God vs. knowing about Him[vii]. Jim also gave a video interview expanding on both articles[viii] and approved my distillation of Jim’s transcript of Dawson Trotman’s 1956 call for reproducing disciples[ix].

This 2011 issue of MF led with a tribute to Avery Willis and the RLM breakthrough[x] and introduced the Training for Trainers[xi] Process from Steve Smith’s 2011 book T4T:  A Discipleship Re-Revolution: The Story Behind the World’s Fastest Growing Church Planting Movement and How it Can Happen in Your Community!

Initial reports attributed Jim’s death to complications from surgery (for life-threatening conditions). Jim recovered well from the surgery but had a mild heart attack almost a week later. He passed away two weeks after the heart attack.

MF owes an enduring debt to Jim for modeling and helping us to recognize the significance of movements (unbroken chains) of multiplying disciples. Even researching this tribute has surfaced insights relevant for discipling movement residencies[xii] today.

This and other articles are available in PDF and booklet formats at












This is an article from the January-February 2018 issue: 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!


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.


  • 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


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: left-in-our-generation.


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].
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This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

A Church in Every People

Plain Talk About a Difficult Subject

A Church in Every People

A Church in
Every People[1]

Plain Talk About a
Difficult Subject

by Dr. Donald A. McGavran
Introduction by Robby Butler, disciple of McGavran and Winter [2]

McGavran’s Legacy

McGavran stirred the mission world by shifting the question from “How does an individual become Christian?” to “How does a people become Christian?”

McGavran devoted much of his life to this latter question, publishing in 1954 his landmark book, Bridges of God: A Study in the Strategy of Missions.

In the mid-1960s, McGavran founded the “School of World Mission” at Fuller Theological Seminary. Over the next decade, with Ralph Winter and others, McGavran supervised 1,000 experienced field missionaries in studying how peoples are discipled—in the Bible, history, and these missionaries’ fields. [3]

This collaborative study with experienced missionaries revealed:

  • The Bible commissions us to disciple whole peoples (ethne).
  • Peoples are only discipled through indigenous movements.[4]
  • Indigenous movements spread only within individual peoples.

McGavran proposed, and Winter agreed, that

We cannot say we have evangelized a person until that person can join an indigenous movement in their society.[5]

McGavran further observed that a people is unreached until its members can follow Christ without their peers feeling they have “traitorously left their own people to join another people.”[6]

Alarmingly, McGavran observed that 90% of Western missionaries to the unreached default to methods that hinder indigenous movements, making the unreached more resistant.

Historical Context

In the early 1970s, influential theologians observed the presence of “national churches” in nearly every country. Presuming that these national churches all had the motivation and ability to evangelize their own countries, these theologians began calling for a moratorium on sending missionaries.

Winter responded at the 1974 Lausanne Congress by showing that 85% of the lost lived among peoples that resisted Christendom as an invading, foreign religion. By extension of McGavran’s insight, Winter showed that these peoples could not be won by normal evangelism, but required new efforts to start indigenous movements among what Winter later called “hidden peoples.”

The World Consultation on Frontier Missions (Edinburgh ’80) gathered at Winter’s initiative. And the delegates distilled the understanding that every people needs its own indigenous movement into the watchword “A Church for Every People by the Year 2000.”  Through the late 1990s,[7] this became a global rallying cry for discipling all nations, and much good would be accomplished by the “AD2000 & Beyond Movement.”

Very soon, however, McGavran began expressing concern that the methods most missionaries were using to “plant a church” were working against the very goal of starting indigenous movements. TIn 1981 he detailed these concerns in the article below.[8]

Today’s Reality

Mission researchers are now tracking nearly 650 movements,[9] most having developed just in the past decade. And many of these movements are growing faster and stronger than anything Winter or McGavran saw in their study of past movements.

Yet in retrospect, McGavran’s concerns appears prophetic—and as relevant today as when he first wrote them:

  • In 1985, McGavran estimated that 50% of the world lived among unreached peoples—2.5 billion people.[10]
  • Today IMB researchers estimate that 57% of the world lives among unreached peoples—4.3 billion (nearly double).[11]

Ralph Winter wrote two Introductions for McGavran’s article.

  1. In 1995 for the Global Congress on World Evangelization:[12]
    [This is] one of the most significant documents McGavran ever wrote. It … distilled his misgivings at superficial attempts to barge into untouched groups with the Gospel. [His] life of insights is remarkably distilled here for all to see.
  2. For a Sep/Oct 1997 reprint in Mission Frontiers:
    In many ways this is the most remarkable article written by the most remarkable mission strategist of the Twentieth Century.

[No one] in history has tramped more places, inquired about the hard facts of the real growth of the Christian movement … and thought it through more profoundly—than Donald A. McGavran. … His burning, wide-ranging concerns took him everywhere [and] pushed his thinking into global prominence.

This [is] a cautioning letter to [those] coming after him, warning them against oversimplification [with] more solid understanding of the essential factors in Christian mission than most missionaries could accumulate in a lifetime.

A Church in Every People:

Plain Talk About a Difficult Subject[13]

by Dr. Donald A. McGavran


In the last eighteen years of the twentieth century, the goal of Christian mission should be to preach the Gospel and, by God’s grace, to plant in every unchurched segment of mankind—what shall we say—”a church” or “a cluster of growing churches”? By the phrase, “segment of mankind” I mean an urbanization, development, caste, tribe, valley, plain, or minority population. I shall explain that the steadily maintained long-range goal should never be the first, but should always be second. The goal is not one small sealed-off conglomerate congregation in every people. Rather, the long-range goal (to be held consistently in view in the years or decades when it is not yet achieved) should be a cluster of growing congregations in every segment.[14]

The One-by-One Method

As we consider the phrase italicized above, we should remember that it is usually easy to start one single congregation in a new unchurched people group. The missionary arrives. He and his family worship on Sunday. They are the first members of the congregation. He learns the language and preaches the Gospel. He lives like a Christian. He tells people about Christ and helps them in their troubles. He sells tracts or Gospels, or gives them away. Across the years, a few individual converts are won from that.[15] Sometimes they come for very sound and spiritual reasons; some-times from mixed motives. But here and there a woman, a man, a boy, a girl do decide to follow Jesus. A few employees of the mission become Christian. These may be masons hired to erect the buildings, helpers in the home, rescued persons or orphans. The history of mission in Africa is replete with churches started by buying slaves, freeing them and employing such of them as could not return to their kindred. Such as chose to could accept the Lord. A hundred and fifty years ago this was a common way of starting a church. With the outlawing of slavery, of course, it ceased to be used.

One single congregation arising in the way just described is almost always a conglomerate church—made up of members of several different segments of society, some old, some young, orphans, rescued persons, helpers and ardent seekers. All seekers are carefully screened to make sure they really intend to receive Christ. In due time a church building is erected and, lo, “a church in that people.” It is a conglomerate church. It is sealed off from all the people groups of that region. No segment of the population says, “That group of worshipers is us.” They are quite right. It is not. It is ethnically quite a different social unit.[16]

Slow to Grow

This very common way of beginning the process of evangelization is a slow way to disciple the peoples of the earth—note the plural, “the peoples of the earth.” Let us observe closely what really happens as this congregation is gathered. Each convert, as he becomes a Christian, is seen by kin as one who leaves “us” and joins “them.” He leaves “our gods” to worship “their gods.” Consequently, his own relatives force him out. Sometimes he is severely ostracized, thrown out of the house and home; his wife is threatened. Hundreds of converts have been poisoned or killed. Sometimes, the ostracism is mild and consists merely in severe disapproval. His people consider him a traitor. A church which results from this process looks to the peoples of the region like an assemblage of traitors. It is a conglomerate congregation. It is made up of individuals who, one by one, have come out of several different societies, castes or tribes.[17]

Now if anyone, in becoming a Christian, is forced out of, or comes out of a highly-structured segment of society, the Christian cause wins the individual but loses the family. The family, his people, his neighbors of that tribe are fiercely angry at him or her. They are the very men and women to whom he cannot talk. “You are not of us,” they say to him. “You have abandoned us, you like them more than you like us. You now worship their gods not our gods.” As a result, conglomerate congregations, made up of converts won in this fashion, grow very slowly. Indeed, one might truly affirm that, where congregations grow in this fashion, the conversion of the ethnic units (people groups) from which they come is made doubly difficult. “The Christians misled one of our people,” the rest of the group will say. “We’re going to make quite sure that they do not mislead any more of us.”

Easy For Missionaries

One by one is relatively easy to accomplish. Perhaps 90 out of 100 missionaries who intend church planting get only conglomerate congregations. I want to emphasize that. Perhaps 90 out of every 100 missionaries who intend church planting get only conglomerate congregations. Such missionaries preach the gospel, tell of Jesus, sell tracts and Gospels and evangelize in many other ways. They welcome inquirers, but whom do they get? They get a man here, a woman there, a boy here, a girl there, who for various reasons are willing to become Christians and patiently to endure the mild or severe disapproval of their people.[18]

If we understand how churches grow and do not grow on new ground, in untouched and unreached peoples, we must note that the process I have just described seems unreal to most missionaries. “What,” they will exclaim, “ could be a better way of entry into all the unreached peoples of that region than to win a few individuals from among them? Instead of resulting in the sealed-off church you describe, the process really gives us points of entry into every society from which a convert has come. That seems to us to be the real situation.”

Those who reason in this fashion have known church growth in a largely Christian land, where men and women who follow Christ are not ostracized, are not regarded as traitors, but rather as those who have done the right thing. In that kind of society every convert usually can become a channel through which the Christian faith flows to his relatives and friends. On that point there can be no debate. It was the point I emphasized when I titled my book, Bridges of God.[19]

Ineffective in Untouched Peoples

But in tightly-structured societies, where Christianity is looked on as an invading religion, and individuals are excluded for serious fault, there to win converts from several different segments of society, far from building bridges to each of these, erects barriers difficult to cross.

The People-Movement Approach

Seven Principles

Now let us contrast the other way in which God is discipling the peoples of Planet Earth. My account is not theory but a sober recital of easily observable facts. As you look around the world you see that, while most missionaries succeed in planting only conglomerate churches by the “one by one out of the social group” method, here and there clusters of growing churches arise by the people-movement method.[20] They arise by tribe-wise or caste-wise movements to Christ. This is in many ways a better system. In order to use it effectively, missionaries should operate on seven principles.

1. Aim for a Cluster of Growing Congregations

First, they should be clear about the goal. The goal is not one single conglomerate church in city or a region. They may get only that, but that must never be their goal. That must be a cluster of growing, indigenous congregations,[21] every member of which remains in close contact with his kindred. This cluster grows best if it is in one people, one caste, one tribe, one segment of society. For example, If you were evangelizing the taxi drivers of Taipei, then your goal would be to win not some taxi drivers, some university professors, some farmers and some fisherman, but to establish churches made up largely of taxi drivers, their wives and children and mechanics. As you win converts of that particular community, the congregation has a natural, built-in social cohesion. Everybody feels at home. Yes, the goal must be clear.

2. Concentrate on One People

The second principle is that the national leader, or the missionary and his helpers, should concentrate on one people. If you are going to establish a cluster of growing congregations amongst, let us say, the Nair people of Kerala, which is the southwest tip of India, then you would need to place most of your missionaries and their helpers so that they can work among the Nairs. They should proclaim the Gospel to Nairs and say quite openly to them, “We are hoping that, within your caste, there soon will be thousands of followers of Jesus Christ, who will remain solidly in the Nair community.” They will, of course, not worship the old gods; but then plenty of Nairs don’t worship their old gods—plenty of Nairs are communist, and ridicule their old gods.

Nairs whom God calls, who choose to believe in Christ, are going to love their neighbors more than they did before, and walk in the light. They will be saved and beautiful people. They will remain Nairs while, at the same time they have become Christians.[22] To repeat, concentrate on one people group. If you have three missionaries, don’t have one evangelizing this group, another that, and a third 200 miles away evangelizing still another. That is a sure way to guarantee that any churches started will be small, non-growing, one-by-one churches. The social dynamics of those sections of society will work solidly against the eruption of any great growing people movement to Christ.

3. Encourage Converts to Remain With Their People

The third principle is to encourage converts to remain thoroughly one with their own people in most matters. They should continue to eat what their people eat. They should not say, “My people are vegetarians but, now that I have become a Christian, I am going to eat meat.” After they become Christians they should be more rigidly vegetarian than they were before. In the matter of clothing, they should continue to look precisely like their kinfolk. In the matter of marriage, most people are endogamous, they insist that “our people marry only our people.” They look with great disfavor on our marrying other people. And yet when Christians come in one-by-one, they cannot marry their own people. None of them have become Christian. When only a few of a given people become Christians, when it comes time for them or their children to marry, they have to take husbands or wives from other segments of the population. So their own kin look at them and say, “Yes, become a Christian and mongrelize your children. You have left us and have joined them.”

All converts should be encouraged to bear cheerfully the exclusion, the oppression, and the persecution that they are likely to encounter from their people. When anyone becomes a follower of a new way of life, he is likely to meet with some disfavor from his loved ones. Maybe it’s mild; maybe it’s severe. He should bear such disfavor patiently. He should say on all occasions:

I am a better son than I was before; I am a better father than I was before; I am a better husband than I was before; and I love you more than I used to do. You can hate me, but I will not hate you. You can exclude me, but I will include you. You can force me out of our ancestral house; but I will live on its veranda. Or I will get a house just across the street. I am still one of you, I am more one of you than I ever was before.

Encourage converts to remain thoroughly one with their people in most matters.

Please note that word “most.” They cannot remain one with their people in idolatry, or drunkenness or obvious sin. If they belong to a segment of society that earns its living stealing, they must “steal no more.” But, in most matters (how they talk, how they dress, how they eat, where they go, what kind of houses they live in), they can look very much like their people, and ought to make every effort to do so.

4. Encourage Group Decisions for Christ[23]

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

5. Aim for a Constant Stream of New Converts

The fifth principle is this: Aim for scores of groups of people to become Christians in an even-flowing stream across the years. One of the common mistakes made by missionaries, eastern as well as western, all around the world[24] is that when a few become Christians—perhaps 100, 200 or even 1,000—the missionaries spend all their time teaching them. They want to make them good Christians, and they say to themselves, “If these people become good Christians, then the Gospel will spread.” So for years they concentrate on a few congregations. By the time, ten or twenty years later, that they begin evangelizing outside that group, the rest of the people no longer want to become Christian. That has happened again and again. This principle requires that, from the very beginning, the missionary keeps on reaching out to new groups. “But,” you say, “is not this a sure way to get poor Christians who don’t know the Bible? If we follow that principle we shall soon have a lot of ‘raw’ Christians. Soon we shall have a community of perhaps five thousand people who are very sketchily Christian.”[25]

Yes, that is certainly a danger. At this point, we must lean heavily upon the New Testament, remembering the brief weeks or months of instruction Paul gave to his new churches, We must trust the Holy Spirit, and believe that God has called those people out of darkness into His wonderful light. As between two evils, giving them too little Christian teaching and allowing them to become a sealed-off community that cannot reach its own people, the latter is much the greater danger. We must not allow new converts to become sealed off. We must continue to make sure that a constant stream of new converts comes into the ever-growing cluster of congregations.

6. Help Converts Exemplify the Highest Hopes of Their People

Now the sixth point is this: The converts, five or five thousand, ought to say or at least feel:

We Christians are the advance guard of our people, of our segment of society. We are showing our relatives and neighbors a better way of life. The way we are pioneering is good for us who have become Christians and will be very good for you thousands who have yet to believe. Please look on us not as traitors in any sense. We are better sons, brothers, and wives, better tribesmen and caste fellows, better members of our labor union, than we ever were before. We are showing ways in which, while remaining thoroughly of our own segment of society, we all can have a better life. Please look on us as the pioneers of our own people entering a wonderful Promised Land.

7. Emphasize Brotherhood[26]

The last principle I stress is this: Constantly emphasize brotherhood. In Christ there is no Jew, no Greek, no bond, no free, no Barbarian, no Scythian. We are all one in Christ Jesus. but, at the same time, let us remember that Paul did not attack all imperfect social institutions. For example, he did not do away with slavery. Paul said to the slave, “Be a better slave, “ He said to the slave owner, “Be a better master.”

Paul also said in that famous passage emphasizing unity, “There is no male or female.” Nevertheless Christians, in their boarding schools and orphanages, continue to sleep boys and girls in separate dormitories! In Christ, there is no sex distinctions. Boys and girls are equally precious in God’s sight. Men from this tribe, and men from that are equally precious in God’s sight. We are all equally sinners saved by grace. These things are true but, at the same time, there are certain social niceties which Christians at this time may observe.

As we continue to stress brotherhood, let us be sure that the most effective way to achieve brotherhood is to lead ever increasing numbers of men and women from every ethnos, every tribe, every segment of society into an obedient relationship to Christ. As we multiply Christians in every segment of society, the possibility of genuine brotherhood, justice, goodness and righteousness will be enormously increased. Indeed, the best way to get justice, possibly the only way to get justice, is to have very large numbers in every segment of society become committed Christians.


As we work for Christward movements in every people, let us not make the mistake of believing that “one-by-one out of the society into the church” is a bad way. One precious soul willing to endure severe ostracism in order to become a follower of Jesus—one precious soul coming all by himself—is a way that God has blessed and is blessing to the salvation of mankind. But it is a slow way. And it is a way which frequently seals off the con-vert’s own people from any further hearing of the Gospel.

Sometimes one-by-one is the only possible method. When it is, let us praise God for it, and live with its limitations. Let us urge all those wonderful Christians who come bearing persecution and oppression, to pray for their own dear ones and to work constantly that more of their own people may believe and be saved.

One-by-one is one way that God is blessing to the increase of His Church. The people movement is another way. The great advances of the Church on new ground out of non-Christian religions have always come by people movements, never one-by-one. It is equally true that one-by-one-out-of-the-people is a very common beginning way. In my book, Bridges of God, which God used to launch the Church Growth Movement, I have used a simile, I say there that missions start proclaiming Christ on a desert-like plain. There life is hard, the number of Christians remains small. A large missionary presence is required. But, here and there, the missionaries or the converts find ways to break out of that arid plain and proceed up into the verdant mountains. There large numbers of people live, there real churches can be founded; there the Church grows strong; that is people-movement land.

I commend that simile to you. Let us accept what God gives. If it is one-by-one, let us accept that and lead those who believe in Jesus to trust in Him completely. But let us always pray that, after that beginning, we may proceed to higher ground, to more verdant pasture, to more fertile lands where great groups of men and women, all of the same segment of society, become Christians and thus open the way for Christward movements in each people on earth. Our goal should be Christward movements within each segment. There the dynamics of social cohesion will advance the Gospel and lead multitudes out of darkness into His wonderful life. Let us be sure that we do it by the most effective methods.


This article was written and copyrighted for the Perspectives Reader. This  annotated version is available (with permission) at

[1] Reprinted by permission from William Carey Library.


[2] I worked as Ralph Winter’s personal assistant for eight years, then on his leadership team and institutional boards for another eight. When Donald McGavran could no longer read, I had the privilege of reading to him and interacting with him also.


[3] McGavran used “discipling” to mean baptism into an indigenous movement. He referred to theological instruction beyond this as “perfecting” (2 Cor 7:1, etc.).

[4] Movements are how Asia was reached through Paul, and how Ireland, Europe, the Netherlands, and every other “Christian” land was reached”.

[5] “The Analysis of a Movement” by Ralph Winter for GCOWE ’95. Reprinted in Frontiers in Mission, available at

[6] McGavran in “A Giant Step in Christian Mission” (Jan/Feb 1985 Mission Frontiers)

[8] Written for Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader

[9] A May, 2017 a “think tank of mission practitioners” identified about 500 movements unfolding around the world, most having started since the year 2000.



[12] Winter in “The Analysis of a Movement,” reprinted in Frontiers in Mission

[13] Some wording and concepts in McGavran’s original article are dated by changes in terminology and new insights. I have annotated many of these. See also my adaptation from McGavran’s outline: “Indigenous Movements: How Peoples are Reached” at, or in this issue of Mission Frontiers.

[14] This was McGavran’s conception of a movement, based on historical precedent.

[15] Such one-by-one evangelism is sometimes referred to as “extraction evangelism.”

[16] In “A Giant Step in Christian Mission” (Jan/Feb 1985 Mission Frontiers), McGavran described unreached peoples as peoples:

  • that “believe intensely that ‘if any of us becomes a Christian, he leaves “us” and joins “them,”’” and
  • in which “individuals who are Christ’s followers are perceived by their fellows to have ‘left their own people and traitorously gone off to join another people.’ Putting it positively, a people is to be considered reached when its members who become Christians are perceived by their fellows as ‘still our people who are pointing the way to what they believe as a good path for us all to follow.’ In Guatemala in 1985, when one asks a person, ‘Are you an evangelical?’ he frequently hears the answer, ‘not yet.’ This is proof that many segments of society in that nation are now effectively ‘reached’ i.e., they believe that while linguistically or ethnically they still remain themselves (Indians or Mestizos), they probably ought to become obedient followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

[17] In Chapter 26 of his book Frontiers in Mission, Ralph Winter provides this perspective on the spiritual dynamics which make a people unreached:

Satan holds whole peoples in bondage. We can’t wrestle a single soul out of his hand without challenging his authority in that particular people group. ... in groups where no real breakthrough has occurred, the contest is still a “power encounter” between the Spirit of God and the powers of darkness. This is why the front line is prayer. This is why Asian evangelists say they must first “bind the strong man” before entering a village that sits in darkness waiting for the great light. We must remember that taking the light into dark places will meet fierce resistance. In the Bible the concept of darkness is not merely the absence of light but the presence of a malignant, destroying Person. That is why the kingdoms of this world will not easily yield. ...

Satan wields his control over individuals by dominating their groups. Most people follow the lead of their own group. Very few individuals are perfectly unrestricted thinkers for themselves. Sometimes it is baffling to missionaries to know how to penetrate a group. Often the breakthrough comes through a miraculous healing or the unaccountable conversion of a key person, not through normal evangelism. Yes, normal evangelism only becomes possible after that breakthrough occurs. ...

Dr. McGavran’s conviction which had influenced so many others was that we cannot say that we have evangelized a person unless that person has been given a chance to unite with an indigenous movement within his or her own society.

[18] This is a sobering observation for those seeking to reach unreached peoples (which perceive Christendom as an unwelcome, divisive religion).

Our efforts must aim to avoid both:

  • winning individuals away from their natural communities, and
  • injecting foreign culture into the ekklesia formed of newly believing families.

[19] Central to McGavran’s concern is his awareness of the natural tendency for those schooled into individualistic evangelism (westerners and non-westerners alike) to overlook the fundamental difference in strategy and method required between:

  • peoples that view following Jesus as an acceptable option within their cultural identity, and
  • those who lump following Jesus with Christendom and reject both as incompatible with their cultural identity.

[20] McGavran’s research involved mostly congregations meeting in dedicated buildings. Later biblical scholarship, and the experience of nearly 650 recent movements, shows that multiplying ekklesia through households (without dedicated buildings) can be far more fruitful. McGavran himself is said to have later regretted focusing on church growth rather than church multiplication. Ekklesia meeting daily as believing households can spread far more rapidly, and with less opposition, to reach a critical mass for tipping a peoples’ attitude in favor of biblical faith. However visible churches (in dedicated buildings) within a single people can also play an influential role in persuading a people that the gospel is good news for them.

[21] English Bibles generally translate ekklesia (Greek) as “church.” Yet New Testament ekklesia lacked the modern trappings of “church”—buildings, programs, sermons and paid staff. Biblical ekklesia met mostly as pre-existing households or oikos (Greek), told stories of Jesus, and multiplied rapidly. A biblical understanding of ekklesia might be “Followers of Jesus, gathering in His name, often daily, to trustingly obey all He commands.” By this definition, the teams of two Jesus sent out modeled ekklesia wherever they were sent, as did Paul and his teams.

[22] In McGavran’s day few distinguished “becoming Christian” from following Jesus. And McGavran witnessed some smaller, oppressed peoples becoming “Christian” to elevate their global status. However among majority peoples of other world religions it is most effective to trust the Holy Spirit to guide them regarding their identification with Christendom, and focus simply on leading them to “follow Jesus.”

[23] Ninety percent of the salvations recorded in Acts involve groups believing together. Only on three of 30 occasions does an individual come to faith or get baptized. And despite the scriptural mandate for circumcision, Paul wrote three times that this sign of identity is meaningless; concluding the “only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Rom 2:25–29; 1 Cor 7:19; Gal 5:6). Yet missionaries often hinder movements by urging individual obedience in baptism in collectivistic societies.

[24] The global mission effort, including the training and sending of non-Western missionaries, remains heavily influenced by Western, individualistic perspectives.

[25] McGavran appears to be writing from an assumption that most of the evangelism is done by the missionaries. However modern movements demonstrate that new believers grow much faster through direct engagement in sharing the gospel than through receiving good teaching. This is a clear example of the widely recognized principle “The best way to learn is to teach.”

[26] McGavran appears here to be defending against a criticism that his focus on pursuing movements within individual peoples was tantamount to advocating racism.

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

McGavran’s “Plain Talk:” How It All Began

McGavran’s “Plain Talk:” How It All Began

McGavran’s “Plain Talk:” How It All Began…

In 1981 I was a student at the School of World Mission at Fuller Seminary. At the same time I was working with the incipient Perspectives movement, volunteering my time at the US Center for World Mission (now Frontier Ventures). I kept a light class schedule that year because I had been tasked with organizing and editing the first Perspectives Reader and Study Guide.

I was delighted to discover that three times a week, students could sign up to meet with Donald McGavran in his office while he ate his lunch. He was always punctual, allowing exactly 30 minutes. I did this often, usually coming prepared with questions, trying to get him talking about how churches could emerge for the first time amidst peoples that we could consider churchless.

I remember pressing him one day about how he would advise someone beginning work amidst an unreached people group. He rattled off five or six principles, all focused on the goal of “Christward movements.” He used the term “cluster of growing congregations,” to describe a multiplicity of growing churches, but I’m sure he would have been thrilled with present-day reports of movements using language of cascading, multiplying generations of churches.

At that time we were finalizing the Strategic section of the Perspectives course. The ideas that McGavran had just described would work beautifully in the course. I asked him to write them in an article for the forthcoming Perspectives reader. He agreed, somewhat reluctantly, but worked with our editorial team to produce the “Plain Talk” article. It was one of the last articles that we squeezed into the curriculum. It still serves us well as the lead article for what is now Lesson 14 of the Perspectives course.

Sometime in 1997, Ralph Winter began to extol the worth of the article, speaking of it in conversation as “a jewel of McGavran’s thought.” He had it reprinted in Mission Frontiers in 1997. Twenty years later, in early 2017, Robby Butler noticed the implications of McGavran’s statements for frontier mission mobilization. If, as McGavran implies, planting single “conglomerate congregations” by what amounts to “extraction evangelism” is actually a setback, making it even harder for many to follow Christ, then Robby was right to say that our efforts to mobilize and send workers may not only be wasted, our efforts may be largely counterproductive.

Robby took it on himself to rework McGavran’s article with some updated language, emphasizing the ideas most pertinent to those aiming to bring about ecclesial movements. I consider Robby’s reworking of McGavran’s article as a call to tap into the rich heritage of inquiry and research about Christ-following ecclesial movements that we can find in many parts of the church growth tradition. This tradition all began with McGavran’s work about how to serve and foment Christ-following, disciple-making movements. Although much of the church growth tradition is dated, there has been considerable theological reflection with insights from social science and history that can strengthen movemental ecclesiology, but only if we make use of it by considering, challenging and advancing it.

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Living Out Micah 6:8 on a Micro-Level

Living Out Micah 6:8 on a Micro-Level

Living Out Micah 6:8 on a  Micro-Level

Micah 6:8 reads:  He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (NIV) 

Imagine if every Jesus-follower was equipped by the church to live out Micah 6:8 on a micro-level: if all followers of Jesus were enabled to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God in their own communities and networks of relationships—in their own towns, cities, and villages—according to their abilities. 

One of the ways cross-cultural workers can inspire a lifestyle of Micah 6:8 around the world is to promote and model a micro-level of Micah 6:8. 

Most Westerners are accustomed to macro-level acts of justice and mercy; gathering at a stadium to pack meals for the hungry; promoting justice from big stages and near celebrity status; raising funds through summer youth campaigns; running food pantries; building schools and orphanages; drilling wells and constructing homes. 

These macro-level acts of justice and mercy are only doable for a few people in the world: those who have wealth or access to wealth. Additionally, when missionaries and cross-cultural Christian workers practice these macro-level acts in the majority world, they often overshadow and outrun grassroots justice and mercy. Once they show up and set up their macro-level acts of justice and mercy, cultural insiders characteristically stop determining and implementing acts of justice and mercy according to their own means and creativity—or worse, they never even start. 

What if we encouraged and made ample room for doable and reproducible Micah 6:8 acts of justice and mercy in our mission models, instead of modeling only what we can do with foreign money and status? What if every local Jesus-follower and church took up small and affordable acts of mercy and justice? Imagine with me every local Christian family adopting a widow or an orphan, sharing meals with a family who lost their crops, or teaching a vocational skill to someone unemployed? 

I know a Cambodian woman who saw an older boy forage through garbage near her home. Eventually, she invited him to stay with her family. Her family made ends meet from week to week, but she knew they could make a little space for one extra person. It would have been easier for her to bring him to a mission-run orphanage or charity. But she did what she could do according to her abilities. 

When we make Micah 6:8 the role of the nonprofit, the government, or the wealthy mission agency, we put these acts of service into the hands of a few, instead of into the hands of all. 

I believe the apostle Paul was urging and affirming Micah 6:8 at a micro-level when he spoke of the churches in Macedonia: 

Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: they were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians. 

This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives. (2 Corinthians 8:1–7, MSG) 

If every Christ-follower, every family, and every church in every community practiced Micah 6:8 at a micro-level, much like the churches Paul boasted about, we would see acts of justice, deeds of mercy, and love for God like never before.

 What does this mean for the cross-cultural Christian worker? 

  • If we have to raise funds outside the local setting or far from    geographical proximity, we are modeling macro-level justice and mercy.
  • We need to refrain from stifling local deeds of justice and mercy with our macro-level projects.
  • Like Paul, we need to be more creative in serving as catalysts for Micah 6:8 at a micro-level. 

What does this mean for indigenous Jesus-followers and churches? 

  • Cease relying on outsiders to drive and pay for acts of justice and       mercy in your so-called Jerusalem (Acts 1:8).
  • Let people know that small acts of kindness according to their means add up to big impacts in people’s lives.
  • Equip Jesus-followers, families, and churches in everyday, micro-level acts of justice and mercy.
  • Model for those around you how to practice Micah 6:8 on a micro-level. 

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Stewarding Resources Unto Greater Fruitfulness

A ministry update from Francis Patt, General Director of Frontier Ventures

Stewarding Resources Unto Greater Fruitfulness

We at Frontier Ventures, together with William Carey International University, are moving forward with continued passion and vision for the Unreached. We are pursuing a future of increased focus and collaboration around the kind of complex problems in mission that got us started 40 years ago. How do we continue turning the church’s attention to the pressing needs and pioneering contexts of the “least of these?” How do we address barriers to the gospel that are bigger than any one organization, campus or even the western mission movement? 

An important part of our work continues to be seeing kingdom insights sown back into the work of the harvest, unto greater fruitfulness—much of it happening through Mission Frontiers and the Int’l Journal for Frontier Missiology

By now you may have heard that we at Frontier Ventures and WCIU are in the midst of a potential sale of a portion of our respective properties in Pasadena. I wanted to give you some background on why we are considering a sale. 

Much in the world has changed through globalization, mobile technologies, and the rise of Global South sending movements. As we have considered our next 40 years of ministry, we have asked ourselves how we can best utilize the resources we have for the purposes God has given us, in light of these changes. In doing so, we have felt the pressing strategic need to invest our resources into building ministry presence in multiple locations. That shift in strategy has led WCIU and Frontier Ventures to put a portion of their respective properties in Pasadena up for a potential sale. Thisdecision, while it may be new to you, has been something that we have discussed for at least a decade as we’ve considered how to best steward our resources for kingdom impact. The purpose of Frontier Ventures and WCIU is and always has been to see Jesus proclaimed and the Church established in all peoples. The vision was never just for the use of property in Pasadena. The vision is what my wife Sue and I had in our hearts when we made our “last thousand” dollar donation for the original purchase of the property. 

All that was invested into the property, the people, and the purpose will continue to be directed toward ministry among the unreached. It’s what we stood for then, and it’s what we’ll continue to stand for, God willing, for the next 40 years. 

We will retain a presence in Pasadena focused on training and collaboration with other Christian organizations, even as we seek to expand our presence in other locations in the US and around the world, some of them closer to the unreached themselves. Forty years ago we purchased a property to pursue a vision; now we are seeking the potential sale of at least some portion of the properties to more effectively pursue the vision, in a changing world. 

Thank  you for your faithful engagement with Mission Frontiers and Frontier Ventures over the years. We ask for your continued prayers as we navigate this time of transition and seek greater fruitfulness in the next 40 years!

For updates on where we are in the sale process, visit and

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Collaborating in a Global Context

Collaborating in a Global Context

Collaborating in a Global Context

Reflections from a Senior staff member – January 2018 

In light of the ministry update Fran Patt gave in this issue of MF, I wanted to offer some historical context as to how our collaboration at Frontier Ventures has changed over the years since the early days of our ministry to help explain the rationale behind pursuing a potential sale. Having been on staff with Frontier Ventures since 1982—then called the U.S. Center for World Mission, I’ve had the privilege of seeing much of this firsthand.

Our original vision for collaboration on this campus was born in the 1970s. We wanted to bring together any and all who believed in the priority of reaching the “hidden peoples” (as we called the unreached back then) and work together to find new insights and strategies that it would take to reach them. Back then, there were no personal computers, email, or cheap long-distance phone calls. Physical proximity was necessary for collaboration. Hence, the purchase of the campus, which allowed such proximity, was a great and timely enabler of collaboration for the unreached. 

We saw many formal and informal teams and partnerships formed on the campus, but we increasingly realized that many of those who had contributions to make, especially in the area of strategy, were actually out engaged in the work around the world. Many would visit the campus as they passed through the L.A. area and would report what they were seeing and wrestling with on the field. In the pre-email era, this was one of the major ways we learned about what was happening beyond us and how we built connections. Not surprisingly, the rise of email and the Internet increased connections and learning opportunities outside of physical visits, lessening the need that workers actually show up on our campus (as much as we still enjoy and benefit from these visits). It also enabled collaboration to develop in more places and across geographies. 

There was also a trend of ministries and agencies relocating from Southern California to other states like Colorado, Florida and Texas, where the cost of living was significantly lower, helping them operate more efficiently. This began in the 1990s and continued throughout the early 2000s. It changed the way we worked. The campus continued to play a key role in our work, but more of our collaboration was happening beyond our campus. (Many of our staff relocated as well. Now, more than one-half of our staff are located outside Pasadena.) Though it was sometimes hard to see things change, we felt it was to the good that they could be more effective in what they were doing in their new locations. 

The rise of movements from the Global South sending non-western workers to the unreached is perhaps the most important development in pioneering mission work over the last twenty years. We praise God for this wonderful and amazing trend. In light of it, we at Frontier Ventures have had to re-envision what collaboration looks like in this context. This includes how we position ourselves to better partner, serve and learn from those in the Global South. As Fran mentions in his update, this also means, intentionally choosing places and partnerships closer to the unreached themselves. I think much of the mission world is waking up to this reality. 

In 1976, we envisioned workers coming to our campus to collaborate; in 2018 and beyond, we envision going to them to collaborate, so that we remain at the pioneering edges of the movement we helped to birth. While many still come here as they pass through the area, we connect, learn from and influence far more people outside of Pasadena than we could ever even fit on our campus here. Our collaboration continues, while the way we do it is changing. May we see ever more fruit as we press on toward seeing movements to Jesus among all the remaining unreached peoples. 

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Truths that have sustained a faith-filled ministry

Truths that have sustained a faith-filled ministry

Kingdom Kernels: Truths that have sustained a faith-filled ministry.

Editor’s Note: Please keep Steve, his wife Laura, and their family in your prayers as Steve battles liver cancer.

As I write this article, I find myself in a medical battle for my very life and the outcome is uncertain. This has given me many hours to pause for reflection.

As I’ve pondered how I’ve spent my life, and called others to spend their lives, I’ve found deep satisfaction with the path that Father has drawn me on from a very young age—a desire to live completely for His glory. In pursuing the glory of God with zealous fervor, it is easy to become disillusioned, burned out or defeated.

For three and a half decades the following values and truths have helped me maintain a level path in the pursuit of God’s kingdom (Isa. 26:7-8). These are the things I would share with anyone in ministry—young or old.

Two undergirding VALUES under the glory of God

Under the overarching objective of trying to bring the greatest glory to God with this solitary lifespan, two values have guided me in this path.

The first is the pre-eminence of God’s WORD.

My lifelong call has been to shepherd God’s people to love Him by being completely obedient to His Word. There is a huge difference between basing every decision and action on the Word of God and rubberstamping our actions with Bible verses that seem to validate those.

Every decision, methodology and expectation in my life has been subjected to the rigorous question: “Does this live perfectly in line with God’s Word.” Any discrepancies get jettisoned or adjusted. Also, I have resolved never to stand before any group apart from the foundation of the Word. Even when you lack experience in what you practice, you can live it and teach it if you know it is true from the Word. I have yet to find any group of disciples unchanged by spending enough hours under the convicting work of the Word (Heb. 4:12-13).

The second undergirding value has been FAITH in the majesty of a God who is the same yesterday, today and always (Heb. 13:8).

That God still acts consistent with His work in the past fuels my trust that He will work in power today. I try not to pigeon-hole Him but trust whatever way He shows up. I happen to believe in movements because I believe that the God of the Bible still shows up. It is my faith in His consistent character that drives me, not cute or clever methods.

When I was a 20-year old pastor, a precious 80-year old church planter said to me, “I just love young preacher boys! Because they don’t know what God can’t do!” I found myself asking the question, “Does there come a time in ministry when you start to doubt that God can do something?” I vowed to never get to that point. I am consumed with movements. I am consumed with the majesty of God and want my efforts to match His majesty. He is worthy of nothing less.

TRUTHS that result and sustain me

Emerging from these two values are truths that have kept my internal fires of love for God hot while keeping me from burning out these last 35 years.

  1. It is Jesus’ Great Commission, not our Good Idea (Mat. 28:18-20).

A few weeks ago, our family gathered to take stock of what will happen if Dad doesn’t survive this medical challenge. I expressed to them my desire to continue to help lead the charge to fulfill the Great Commission, but wanted God to do what would bring Him the greatest glory. My sons assured me they would carry the baton even if I passed on.

Amid many tears, in a sweet time of prayer, my youngest son prayed, “Dear God, thank you that this is not Dad’s Great Commission—it is Jesus’ Great Commission.” Immediately, I began laughing with joy. It is Jesus’ Great Commission, not the good idea of anyone else in history. Jesus will see His Commission through. It is freeing to know that no human agent is indispensable. You are just a bond-servant of Jesus Christ (Phi. 1:1).

  1. The key to fruitfulness is a life of abiding in Christ—walking with His Spirit.

Proper biblical methods and strategies are important, but it is the Holy Spirit (abiding in Christ) that produces fruit (Joh. 15:5). In training and coaching thousands of people in biblical strategies, I have striven to never be a methodologies guy. Rather I have always sought to elevate the role of the Spirit in the process. Abiding in Christ—from the beginning to the end of your day—is the key to success. Yet I find that many Christian workers are strangely illiterate when it comes to walking in the Spirit. My new book Spirit Walk seeks to address this spiritual illiteracy, rather than being another book on missiological strategies.

The only way to lasting fruit is through death (counting the cost (Joh. 12:24).

Jesus made it clear that the only way that seeds bear fruit is through dying. No lasting fruit comes without sacrifice. Sometimes it means physical death, but it always involves dying to self, willingness to suffer and persevere when things get tough. There is no other path; there is no cheap shortcut to results. Do not strive for results if you are not willing to suffer for His Name.

  1. Most (if not all) periods of fruitfulness are preceded by wilderness purging.

Moses did not lead the people of Israel out of bondage until he had spent forty years in the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that God met him and found a servant purged of personal aspiration, able to do His bidding (Exo. 3:1ff). God wants us weaned off selfish ambition so that we delight in Him and His glory (Psa. 131). Fruitfulness comes after God has purged us, and this purging can take years. He wants us to be servants to whom He can entrust His kingdom. Recently two fruitful young men told me that this was the most important advice I had given them—not my CPM training.

  1. Always let your efforts match His majesty.

Though you do not dictate when you will emerge from the wilderness times into periods of fruitfulness, always let your attempts match God’s majesty. William Carey said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” I have found that many of our attempts match our estimation of earthly resources, not the majesty of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. If He can do all things, then let your attempts match His character.

  1. When you live a surrendered life, expect the God of the Bible to show up.

I believe God put the stories of His miraculous work in the Bible to give us a proper understanding of His delivering character. He reminds us that He desires to show up and intervene. When you live a surrendered life, trust God to show up in power. God does not respond to formulas (A+B+C=D) and is not impressed by childish demands. But He loves to respond to faith in Who He is. For years, I read Acts monthly so as never to give up hope.

  1. Father determines the amount of fruit, so celebrate all fruit—yours and your colleagues’.

The parable of the minas (Luk. 19:11ff) and talents (Mat. 25:14ff) underscores a critical truth: God determines how much fruit will result from your efforts. Faithfulness always leads to fruitfulness no matter how much it is (Mat. 25:23). Gratefully celebrate whatever God does through you. Also, celebrate the fruit God bears through others because it is the same Bridegroom working through them (Joh. 3:25-30)! Never compare yourself. Ministry has never been about making a great name for yourself; all fruit is God’s.

  1. Your personal worth is tied to your identity in Christ, not your role, position or results.

If you live long enough, your roles, positions and organizations will change. If you base your worth on your current status or performance, you will live in bondage to the fear of man (Pro. 29:25). Jesus had little earthly status but completely fulfilled God’s purposes (Joh. 13:3-4). Let your worth be tied to your identity as a child of God (Luk. 10:20) and live for the applause of heaven alone (1 Cor. 4:1-4).

  1. Always be teachable and adjust your plans.

God’s Word is our guide for life and godliness. Your methods and plans are not the Word. Therefore, always subject your methods and plans to the Word. A teachable spirit is essential if you are going to bear fruit (Pro. 3:5-7, 12:1). Always learn new truths and adapt your methods from other case studies of God working (Psa. 111:2). Turn loose of your cherished, trade-marked methods when there is a more effective, biblical way.

  1. Balance emphasizing integrity of heart and skillful hands (Psa. 78:72).

Fruitful people who serve God’s purposes like King David (Act. 13:36) are people with the right heart (Act. 13:22) and are effective in their ministry skills. Despite his shortfalls, David was a man who tried to live with integrity of heart and skillful hands. Depending on the needs of my listeners (or myself), I emphasize heart or hands to keep them balanced. Effective ministry skills are essential, but are nullified by lack of integrity of heart. On the other hand, many sincere godly people prove unfruitful because they use ineffective approaches or lack proper equipping (Eph. 4:11-16).

  1. Thank God for the bad stuff (Eph. 5:20).

You will have tough times. A freeing reality is to thank God not just in all things (1 The. 5:18), but for all things (Eph. 5:20). This robs the enemy of His power over you and results in a life of joy despite the circumstances. In this season of greatest personal challenge, my heart is more filled with gratitude than ever. My family and I daily thank our Heavenly Father for every difficulty because He is omnipotent and perfectly good.

  1. Prayer sustains and carries the day.

Every movement of God starts simultaneously as a prayer movement. God moves His people to seek His face and then responds to their faith-filled efforts in power. Prayer must be accompanied by lots of hard work in the trenches daily. But it is mere human effort without the prayer of intercessors (Jam. 5:16). In addition, it is aimless ministry without the discernment God gives you in the prayer closet. And in recent weeks when I have been too weak even to pray coherently, I have found myself brought to the feet of Jesus by the prayer ropes of faithful friends (Mar. 2:3-4). Thank you, intercessors!

  1. Urgency is more real than ever

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

A life lived with zealous urgency is critical to living a wise life. Our Lord Jesus was remembered for the zeal that consumed Him (Joh. 2:17). Zeal, properly tempered under the mission of God, leads to wise living, not burning out. As I wonder whether I can continue my earthly service, urgency is more real than ever (Rom. 12:11).

  1. Trust the Holy Spirit in the good, faithful people around you.

When I assumed a role over about 500 missionaries in a new region, a wise mentor told me, “Don’t take any of your old pals with you but trust that God has faithful leaders to raise up there.” Bringing your leadership team to a new context communicates to new colleagues that you do not trust them. Look for and develop faithful, God-called leaders to present each of them as complete in Christ (Col. 1:28-29). They have the same Holy Spirit and standing of faith as other believers (II Pet. 1:1), so trust the Spirit in them.

  1. Walk the journey with lifelong friends.

This is not contradictory to the previous point. While the apostolic team of Barnabas and Saul did not yet know where they were going, they knew they were going together (Act. 13:1-3). With the number of high priority, unreached places on earth, do not get hung up on the “ideal match” so much as walking the journey with like-hearted friends. At times, you will serve on the same team, and at other times on separate teams. These lifelong friends will help you walk with integrity and be there for you decades later.

  1. Your joy must be that your name is written in heaven and your food must be doing God’s will.

Despite some amazing results among His disciples, Jesus cautioned them against letting their joy reside in results (Luk. 10:20) that can toss you like waves of the sea. Despite the results, your joy must be in your salvation. End each day with a full heart that you heard your Father speak, did His will and accomplished His work (Joh. 4:34).

  1. Let love alone serve as your motivation.

The most widespread movement in Acts (based in Ephesus) was chided decades later not for losing its diligence but for losing its motivation—first love (Eph. 2:4).

Love for Jesus and a desire to offer all ministry as a thank offering to Him (Rom. 15:16) is the sole motivation to keep you on track. When pride, selfish ambition or works-based esteem creep in, it shows. Keep rekindling your love so that every act of service is prompted by your love for Jesus. Live only to please Him.

  1. He is worth it! Why give your life to anything less than his absolute glory?

I am thankful that at the age of 18, God saw fit to instill in me a value to let my life bring the greatest glory to Him. Each next-step decision in my life has been guided by whether it gave him the fullest honor. This has led our family to some lonely places and impoverished circumstances as well as positions of influence and more comfortable locales. The circumstances have never guided us—only His worship. He is worth it. Why give your life to anything else?

  1. You will always be delivered, whether through life or death.

It is my earnest desire to continue on in this life to serve the purposes of God in my generation, but the constant prayer has been that God would heal or do something better.  No matter the circumstances, God always delivers His saints—whether through life or death (Phi. 1:18ff). Praise His Name!

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

God’s Gift of Surprising Proximate Strategies

God’s Gift of Surprising Proximate Strategies

God’s Gift of Surprising Proximate Strategies

Jesus said, ‘Go into all the world’ (Mk. 16:15) but that task remains undone for over 1,300 people groups who have never in the history of Christianity had any form of gospel witness.  They are referred to as Unengaged Unreached People Groups (UUPGs).

Unreached People Groups (UPGs) are those peoples who have no indigenous movement to Christ that is able to reach their own people. Unengaged Unreached People Groups are those who not only have no Christ Followers, but they are often the ones that no one is looking for.

Jesus revealed His heart and His priorities in the story of leaving the 99 sheep who were safe to find the one who was missing (Lk. 15:4).  If this parable is the guiding beacon for the missionary enterprise, how is it possible that after more than 2,000 years of Christian missions there is any such thing as an UUPG?  The answer is that they are Unreached and Unengaged for a reason.  If there were a 10-point scale that combined both entrenched resistance and extreme difficulty, most UUPGs would be 11.

So where do we go from here?  The answer lies in what gives motion to movements. Readers of Mission Frontiers are regularly exposed to a range of insights about the ability of Disciple Making Movements/Church Planting Movements to take root and multiply in a given community or people group in a relatively short time frame compared to traditional ministry models.

One of the key ingredients that makes this possible is natural networking.  Everyone connects to others in one way or another.  It could be language, culture, occupation, marriage or whatever.  Relationships that intersect more than one network are what gives the gospel a chance to leap from one network to another. Therein lies the secret of engaging the unengaged.

If the main reason the UUPG door remains locked and bolted are resistant attitudes and difficult circumstances, then the key that unlocks the door may well be near neighbors who share the circumstances and can defuse the attitudes.  This is referred to as a proximate strategy.

Movements are based in a chain-reaction of one life impacting another in the context of some common denominator that they share. When the Kingdom takes root in a people group that is a cultural and geographic ‘near neighbor’ to an UUPG, the barriers to entry may not be totally gone but they are the lowest they will ever be. And that equals a strategic opportunity to do what has never been done – engage the unengaged.

Examples from Cote d’Ivoire 

Cote d’Ivoire yields examples of something that is happening across many parts of Africa today.  

Case Study #1: West of Côte d’Ivoire – a partner

Several years ago, Cityteam (now New Generations) catalyzed a replicating disciple making process among the Mau people in Cote d’Ivoire. Over time a few Mau people visited their extended families living among the Klaa people and introduced them to the Discovery Bible Study Method. Soon Klaa churches began springing up.

When Younoussa Djao, New Generations’ Africa Director, became aware of what happened, his first thought was: “If this can happen when new Christian families start Discovery Groups in new places, then what if we could be more intentional about the process?” So Younoussa started looking for ways to normalize this kind of progression in movements. He did not have to wait long for a second opportunity.

It turns out that New Generations had given DMM training to a few leaders of a Christian denomination and they had experienced encouraging outcomes. Some time later the denomination chose a new president who started his term by going throughout the country learning what was happening among the churches.

After he visited the leaders trained in Kingdom Movements he went to visit Younoussa to say thank you, and ask for a closer mentoring relationship. Younoussa responded: “If you will engage this process with intentionality, we will train as many missionaries as you are willing to send. They will all be your missionaries but we will be glad to train, coach, and mentor them as long as you feel it is of value.”

Eventually,  the  Klaa   and  Mau  peoples  engaged  the Toura people, and eventually the Klaa also engaged the Yacouba people. 

Case Study #2: From the Ouan to the Malinke

In the Kounahiri region, DMM initiatives were launched among the Ouan people who live among the Malinke.  The Ouan are more Animistic than Islamic, but in this case, the movements jumped naturally to the Muslim Malinke because they share many proximate spaces, customs, social events, and family connections through marriage. 

Case Study #3: In Burkina Faso-Multiple Proximate Engagements

In Burkina Faso, Disciple Making Movements were launched simultaneously among the Tussian, (123 churches) the Bouaba, (194 churches) and the Muslim Unreached People Group (MUPG) the Bobo Mandare (44 churches). The resulting DMM churches among these people groups all spoke Jula, had Muslim backgrounds and were geographically proximate. So, with a little bit of critical mass, the Tussian people (123 churches) engaged the Tiefo and the MUPG Senoufo (25 churches). The Bouaba engaged the Dagari (20 churches) and the Bobo also engaged another Senoufo group.

Another Region in West Africa

Another New Generations region in Africa began to observe the emergence of grass roots, proximate strategies about eight years ago, just four years into the DMM process.  It did not take much for the leader to realize that with some strategic planning and tactical support, this phenomenon could be leveraged for sending missionaries to local people groups, as well as for in-country missionaries to distant populations of their own people, and even in sending missionaries to their people group’s diaspora populations in other countries. 

The leader of that region notes that proximate strategies are responsible for about 57-58% of the 7,000 churches that have been planted in the region, because proximate strategies:

  • Fulfill and nurture the early apostolic spark in the hearts of recently discipled people! 
  • Create natural channels to lost people who in turn discover Christian transformations that make them jealous for the Kingdom of God.
  • Insure that apostolic teams understand that engaging an unengaged people is more than checking a box as “done.”  It is just the first phase of a natural stream of Kingdom of God advance—the subject about which Jesus gave many parables.

Currently New Generations is realizing that for many of the unengaged peoples whom they have engaged with Kingdom Movements there are often one or two more people groups that live nearby, and one or two that have cultural and linguistic connections in a different part of the same country, or have those same connections within another country.  In all those cases there are growing examples of successful engagements.

We are sure that this is a strategy that many other CPM/DMM ministries have experienced, and perhaps we can all find ways to improve our effectiveness and encourage each other in advancing God’s Kingdom coming from heaven, via “proximate disciple making strategies.”

Finally, the journey into Kingdom DNA not only includes obedience and replication, but also risk (living sacrifice) and ownership (an empowered disciple–not just a recipient). With 1300 challenging people groups still unengaged, may God give us eyes to find God’s proximate strategies that may be hidden in plain sight—His provision for our journey together towards “no place left.” Rom. 15:23

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Planting Churches

Learning the Hard Way

Planting Churches

Planting Churches—Learning the Hard Way 

“Church planting is easy!” we thought. Within a few months of landing in a North African city, we already had a group of men and women meeting in our home. Joining that fellowship were some Muslim-background believers who had previously come to faith in the Lord through the testimony of others. We lined our living room with couches, in the local style, served sweet mint tea, and wore djellabas. We hoped a contextualized fellowship could grow into a solid church. T, a seminary graduate, functioned as the pastor, but rotated leadership. We sang and studied the Bible in English, Arabic, and French. The participants came from Berber, Arab, French, Spanish, Scottish, and American backgrounds. We even collected an offering for the poor. We thought we had planted a truly multi-cultural New Testament house church.

However, before the year was out, this church was already collapsing.  The believers came from all over the city and had little in common. We wanted them to become like a family, but they were not interested. If T was gone on a trip, no one came.   

Gathering a contextualized group of believers was our attempt to plant a church that would last by applying insights from the past. For at least 60 years, missionaries had been winning individuals to Christ in this country. But they had been returning to Islam to regain the families and communities they had lost. So, in the last 20 years, missionaries began gathering them together in hopes of creating community, but the churches thus planted did not last. Thinking the churches were too foreign, which made the families and government oppose them, we were now trying to contextualize the fellowships, but they too were falling apart. 

We gave up and started over. Perhaps we were gathering people from too many different backgrounds together. This time, we determined to gather only believers from one people group--the one we were focusing on. So when the opportunity arose, we introduced the only two known believers from that tribe. We expected them to embrace with joy. Instead, they backed away with suspicion. Later, each one reprimanded T for introducing them. Each feared the other would expose him as a Christian to his hometown or to the government. 

Now we thought,“Church planting is so hard!” Our contextualized, multi-cultural fellowship had failed. Our contextualized, mono-cultural group had also failed. How were we ever going to get believers to trust each other enough to plant a church? 

As it turns out, we needed to re-evaluate our assumptions about what the church is, and how one is started. First, God unexpectedly showed us a completely different way to plant churches. Then, we noticed how Jesus planted a church cross-culturally and how he instructed the disciples to start a church.  

God showed us a different way

God overhauled our concept of church by planting a church Himself within our people group. To be accurate, He didn’t really plant a church; He planted the gospel into a community that already existed.  

Struggling with our failure to plant a church, we received an entirely unexpected letter. The hand-carried letter notified us that two brothers from our people group had finished a Bible correspondence course. They now wanted to meet a believer. We promptly sent off our best Arabic speaker to their distant town. When he arrived at their house, it was packed. Our team member wondered if he had stumbled onto a wedding, so he hesitantly asked for Hassan, who had written the letter.   

Hassan and his brother rushed forward to welcome him into their household. They had gathered all their relatives and close friends to hear their honored guest explain what they had learned in their course. They eagerly received the gospel and pledged as a group to follow Jesus. Our teammate was thrilled. When he returned home, we shared his amazement.  

This new church, consisting of an extended family and friends, continues strong to this day. Decades later, they are still spreading the gospel from town to town through their natural networks. They study the Word together, pray, baptize, and fellowship in ways they have determined best fit their community. No outsiders have ever tried to contextualize what has taken place. They have never had a leader or funding from outside their relational network. They do not feel any need for them. 

“Is this church planting?” we asked. It was so different than what we had been doing. For decades, faithful workers had been forming churches, only to have them collapse in one to ten years. When we arrived, there was only one fellowship left, struggling along in the largest city. We ourselves had witnessed the genesis and demise of several more groups. Was there another way? 

We compared the two ways of church planting. Our way consisted of forming a church by gathering together believers we knew. Their faith preceded their commitments to each other. We were the connecting center of the relationships, whether the church was contextualized or not, multi-cultural or mono-cultural. Of course, we hoped to turn leadership over to the believers as their commitments to each other grew. Instead, the churches collapsed. The way we were building community was a pattern common within our own culture but not theirs.  

But a church developed in a different way when the gospel was planted into Hassan’s family. The believers encouraged each other within their natural community. Their commitments to each other preceded their faith. Members could no more easily leave the church than they could leave their family. We provided occasional biblical input, such as translated scriptures, but little else. We were truly outsiders.  

Could faith growing within a family or network be a more effective way of establishing churches within communal societies? If so, how could we do this as outsiders? As we looked at the Scriptures, we noticed two things for the first time: Jesus had planted a church cross-culturally within a Samaritan village, and he had given his disciples instructions on how to plant the gospel within communities. 

Jesus taught us a different way

“How do we plant a church this other way?” we wondered.  We began by looking at the way Jesus planted a church in a Samaritan community (John 4). The Samaritans, like Muslims today, worshiped the God of Abraham. Like the Samaritans, the Muslims “worship what they do not know.” Because of their emphasis on purity, the Jews considered the Samaritans defiled and excluded them from the temple and all regular worship of God.  

So, the Samaritan woman was shocked when Jesus asked her for a cup of water, because of the long-standing enmity between their people groups. And when Jesus offered her eternal life, she turned it down, because she knew her people could never join the Jewish religion. “Interesting,” we thought. Our Muslim friends often turned down salvation in Jesus because they could not imagine joining the Christian religion.  

But Jesus removed that barrier. When the Samaritan woman pointed out that Jews worshiped in the temple, but Samaritans on the mountain, Jesus clarified that changing religious forms was not the issue. Instead, he said, “A time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks,” (John 4:23). The woman was so overjoyed that they too could become true worshipers, she ran back and told her whole village.  

As a result, the Samaritans invited Jesus to come into their community for two days. Jesus persuaded them that he “really is the Savior of the world,” not just the Savior of the Jews.  Many believed, and Jesus left behind a church inside that community, like the one in Hassan’s family. Jesus did not try to get them to come out of their community to join with Jewish or Samaritan believers from elsewhere. We had never noticed this part of the story before! 

This story was not a parable; Jesus faced the same barriers we were facing! All the Muslims we knew had been taught that to worship God through Christ they would have to leave their family and join the Christian group, who had been their enemies for 1400 years. But somehow Hassan and his family had seen things the way Jesus did: They could become true worshipers without leaving their community. 

Then we saw, for the first time, that Jesus had also taught the disciples how to plant a church within a community. In Luke 10, he told seventy disciples to look for a “man of peace”—someone who would invite them into his own household. They were to remain in that household sharing the gospel with all who came into that home, and not go from house to house. If no one in a particular village invited them into their household, they were told to leave and go on to another village. Amazingly clear! 

We had never thought of looking for people who would invite us into their family or community to talk about Jesus! But Jesus and the disciples had planted churches this way. 

“We can copy what Jesus did!” we realized. We can begin by telling our Muslim friends that worshiping God in spirit and truth does not require them to change religious systems. If some receive this news with joy and invite us back to tell their whole family, we can go into their community. As happened in Hassan’s family, those who decide to follow Jesus can grow in faith together. Instead of trying to get believers from different communities to form a lasting new group, we could, like Jesus, establish a church inside their natural community.  


After 15 years, we had learned the hard way that—in communal cultures—we couldn’t plant a lasting church by gathering random believers into new groups. It didn’t matter if they were contextualized or not, multi-cultural or mono-cultural, after a few months or years, these groups would fall apart.  

Instead we needed to find a Person of Peace who would invite us into their own community to share the gospel. Jesus was welcomed into the Samaritan village. The 70 disciples were welcomed into a home. In the same way, Peter was welcomed into Cornelius’ household, and Paul was welcomed by Lydia into her household.

In each case, they were welcomed into a cohesive community, so the gospel was shared with the whole group. As a result, people already committed to each other came to faith together. A church was born within a natural community, without creating a new group just for fellowship. It reminded us of something Ralph Winter had said, “The ‘church’ (i.e. committed community) is already there, they just don’t know Jesus yet!"

BY  T & B Lewis

T & B Lewis have been involved in church planting among Muslim peoples for many years. 

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Glimpses through the Fog

Multiplying Movements

Glimpses through the Fog

Astonishing Progress

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up;
do you not perceive it?

Isaiah 43:19

Glimpsing cows through a fog on an unfamiliar road, one might wonder: “Just how many more cows are there?”

In the mid-1970s, many were stirred to pray for and go to unreached people groups (UPGs) and the 10/40 Window. Despite isolated glimpses of Acts-like movements, not much progress was visible. About 7,000 UPGs remain unreached.[1] Now, credible reports of multiplying movements suggest change is coming, and quickly!

Since 1995, less than 25 years ago, multiplying movements of small, reproducing churches have brought 50 million to faith in Jesus and equipped these new disciples to share their faith and disciple others. And the pace shows no sign of slowing.

The lifting fog

In late 2015, researchers estimated about 100 movements globally, consistent with movements verified by on-site visits. By late 2016, this estimate had risen to roughly 130. In May of 2017, Kent Parks reported more than 150 movements to the Lausanne network.[2]

Then in mid-2017, formation of the 24:14 Coalition[3] deepened trust between movement leaders and researchers, and many shared their data for the first time. Credible organizations and networks reported approximately 2,500 movement engagements,[4] including nearly 500 movements[5] that had produced millions of new disciples. As 2017 ended, the count was nearly 650 movements with 50 million disciples!

Why the fog, anyway?

Overlapping terms lead many to think of a church planting movement as just faster church planting. In fact movements and church planting are fundamentally different. Church planters typically pour vast energy into turning strangers into “family.” Multiplying movements focus instead on sowing God’s word into groups with pre-existing relationships, like the oikos (households) of the New Testament.

As in the first century, movement ekklesia[6] multiply rapidly without dedicated buildings. Those inclined to associate church with buildings can thus easily conclude movements aren’t real.

A few large, well-known, older movements go back 20 years or more, and have slowed in growth as they got bigger. However most movements are new, smaller, and growing much more rapidly.

Mission leaders have shared these reports in confidence, to guide collaborative strategy. They have good reason to restrict their reports to supporters and trusted colleagues:

Well-intentioned outsiders can quickly derail a movement.

Outside funding has killed off many budding movements.

Unwanted attention increases persecution of movements.

About 15 known movements have fizzled to date, but most continue growing exponentially, and some are multiplying to additional UPGs.

Movements multiply ekklesia faster than they can be readily counted, and terminology and methods for tracking such movements are still emerging. Where on-site verification by a visiting team is impractical, researchers seek detailed reports and independent confirmation.

The fog hasn’t fully lifted, so we don’t yet know what we don’t yet know. But the implications of these reports are truly…


By late 2017, credible reports supported this new expanding awareness:

In 1995: at least 5 full movements with 15,000 new disciples.

In 2000: at least 10 movements with 100,000 new disciples.

In 2017: at least 645 movements with 47,500,000 new disciples!

And at least 90% of these movements are among UPGs!

These movements are present mostly in multiple locations in a few hundred widely distributed UPGs—in 149 of 234 countries (60%), and nearly 80% of Joshua Project’s people group clusters.

Thus, in recent decades, at least 1% of the global population of UPGs have become—not just believers—but obedience-oriented disciples in rapidly multiplying ekklesia!

Thousands of movement engagements have been reported, but for this count of movements the 24:14 Coalition research team includes only credible reports of Level 5 or higher movements.[7]

Thousands more movements are still needed, yet there are many reasons to hope expectantly for their continued multiplication.













Hindrances and Accelerators

Various factors can hinder the growth of individual movements:

  • As movements expand, their growth rate usually declines.
  • Saturation of population segments inevitably slows movements.
  • Global attention could increase persecution and other inhibitors.
  • Relocation and/or moral failure can remove key leaders.
  • Visible churches planted by extraction can inhibit movements.[8]

Yet the global movement count will likely keep growing, through:

  • Further review of movement reports not initially deemed credible.
  • Spirit-led progression of existing engagements into movements.
  • Church planters learning to how to pursue movements.
  • Traditional (visible) churches learning to start movements.
  • Mobilization of more laborers to pursue movements.
  • Increasingly effective movement training, with guided experience.
  • Unprecedented learning from each others’ successes and failures.
  • Spontaneous spread of movements to new peoples and places.
  • Intentional multiplication of existing movements.
  • Multiplied believers praying explicitly for movements.
  • Further discovery of what God is already doing.





Common characteristics of movement ekklesia[9]

In movements, ekklesia typically …

  • Aim to bless and disciple families/social units more than individuals.
  • Raise up and equip natural leaders from within existing groups.
  • Focus more on obeying Jesus than on accumulating knowledge.
  • Disciple more by God-led discovery study than experts teaching.
  • Cultivate maturity more through loving obedience than knowledge.
  • Meet in private homes and public venues more than owned buildings.
  • Average fewer than 20 participants in regular, interactive gatherings.
  • Aim to multiply new ekklesia rather than grow in size.
  • Employ simple patterns each disciple can facilitate and replicate.
  • Involve disciples more in ministering than in receiving ministry.
  • Work toward multiple new generations (not just daughter churches).
  • Spread more through relational networks than attracting strangers.
  • Prove more stable than churches of gathered strangers.
  • Are invisible at first to outsiders and the surrounding community.

Historical perspective

Most believers since the first century have had no option but to live provincial lives—without opportunity to see the unfolding progression of God’s global purpose, or grasp our place in it. We have the unprecedented ability to view recent developments with historical perspective to anticipate what lies ahead.

Christ’s ekklesia was birthed in a prayer meeting—Pentecost. From that event His global ekklesia experienced double digit annual growth (10%+) only once—from 33–50 AD.[10] In that rapid growth, Christ’s ekklesia had no written scriptures or buildings, instead they had just…

Jesus’ ministry, training model and global commission,

daily prayer and fellowship with one another,

the empowering of the Holy Spirit, and

their testimony of Jesus’ life and work in their lives.

Yet by 400AD the church was centered in dedicated buildings and the annual growth of Christians had slowed to less than half a percent (.5%), where it stayed until the 1800s.

Even two hundred years after Martin Luther launched the Reformation, the growth of global Christianity remained below 0.5%. Then, in 1727, a band of 300 squabbling religious refugees from Moravia sought the Lord and experienced revival. Forty eight men and women began a 100-year long, 24/7 prayer meeting, and sent the first hundreds of Protestant missionaries.[11]

In 1738, John Wesley was transformed through contact with Moravian missionaries, and the resulting Methodist movement transformed both England and the United States.[12]

By 1792, access to scattered reports of the religious state of the world stirred William Carey to write a short booklet—An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens,[13] then set sail for India. Carey’s booklet and example stirred a first wave of missionaries to the world’s coastlands, causing him to be credited as the father of modern missions.

Carey’s Enquiry lifted many from a provincial perspective into awareness of God’s global purpose:

  • Scriptural mandate
  • Historical precedent
  • Current realities
  • Future prospects

In the late 1800s, Hudson Taylor issued a challenge to the interior of China with an effect similar to Carey’s Enquiry. This stirred a second wave of missionaries to the interiors of the world’s continents and fueled the student volunteer movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Wesley, Carey and Taylor all contributed greatly to this increase of Christians, from less than a fourth of the world in 1800 to a full third of the world by 1900, and set the stage for the globalization of the Church.

Ralph Winter estimated that, in 1900, 7.5% of Christians[14] were committed believers. Between 1900 and 2000 the Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal movements renewed the faith of many, so that by 2000 about a third of the world’s Christians[15] were committed believers.[16]

Distilling field workers’ insights

In the 1960s, Donald McGavran launched a graduate school at Fuller Theological Seminary for experienced missionaries to study together how God had worked in their respective fields.[17] This collaborative learning environment yielded many important insights.

In 1974, Ralph Winter drew on these insights to distinguish two different contexts in which non-Christians are found:

Reached People groups (15%) accept believers as part of their people.

UPGs (85%) need a movement before believers will be accepted.

Winter and McGavran urged the launching of movements as God’s means for reaching UPGs, but the problem (peoples isolated from the gospel) was understood and embraced far more widely and rapidly than the solution (launching movements).

Thus, McGavran lamented in 1981 that 90% of missionaries among UPGs were not pursuing movements.[18] A former student of McGavran’s told me McGavran later wished he had advocated church multiplication instead of church growth.

Popularizing field insights

In 1974, to guide believers in embracing God’s global agenda, Ralph Winter distilled insights from this collaborative study of seasoned missionaries into a course that later took a variety of forms:

  • “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” (180,000 alumni)


  • Mission Mundial” (has fueled mission vision in Latin America)
  • “Kairos” (a global adaptation of Mission Mundial)
  • “World Christian Foundations” (an MA program), etc.

Alongside the strategy coordinators who were trained during the 1980s and beyond, alumni of these courses have become like Gideon’s mighty men—revealing God’s power through their disproportionate impact.

By the year 2000, perhaps 1,000 missionaries[19] were pursuing God for movements among UPGs. As God blessed their efforts, they learned from each other’s successes and failures, leading to multiplying movements that today may rival or even surpass first century growth.

Real-life examples

  • Ying and Grace were church planters. Each year, they would win 40–60 people to Christ, organize them into a church, then move to a new city. At the end of ten years, if each of these churches had doubled in size, this could have produced 1,200 new believers. Then Ying was asked to take responsibility for an unreached population of 20 million. In the year 2000, Ying and Grace were trained in movement principles and began training disciples to start multiplying ekklesia. Over the next decade, 1.8 million new disciples were baptized and discipled using a discovery Bible study approach, and ekklesia multiplied to 160,000 with an average annual growth rate of 50%![20] The researchers who later verified this movement with a field assessment team found that these numbers had been consistently under-reported.
  • Trevor works among a 99+% Muslim people group. He began by identifying local believers with a desire to bless Muslims and a willingness to experiment. He guided these believers to start multiplying small discovery Bible studies that discuss and obey Scripture, and to learn from each other’s successes and failures. Each started a movement of discovery Bible studies, through which Muslim participants consistently come to faith in Christ. By August 2017, relational sharing and natural migration had carried this network of movements to 40 languages in eight countries, yielding a total of 25 full movements and many more movement engagements. As of January, 2018, just five months later, this network had spread to 47 languages in 12 countries![21]
  • VC reports: “Many missionaries came to my country but did not see the fruits of their labors. We are privileged to see this fruit. We have gone from evangelism, to disciple making, to church planting, and now to igniting movements. Now we have a team of at two or more families in nearly 50% of my country’s many villages, and feel confident that by 2020 we will have a team in every village!”

Intimacy with God

God reserves a rare depth of fellowship for those who engage in a grand purpose together. Our intimacy with God, and answered prayer, are both tied to bearing multiplying fruit (Jn 15:7–8, 15–16).

Jesus said:

I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (Jn 15:15).

The writer of Hebrews declared:

God wanted … His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised …(Heb 6:17).

Jesus prophesied:

This good news of the kingdom will be preached … as a testimony to all nations … (Mt 24:14).
As we go to disciple all nations (Mt 28:19), we rest in the reality that He is with us to the end of the age (Mt 28:20).

The distribution of multiplying ekklesia remains very uneven. The 24:14 Coalition invites you to help address this injustice.

Let us press in to know the Lord better by joining Him in His pursuit of no place left (Rom 15:23) where Jesus is not yet preached, known, loved and worshiped.[22]


Take these steps toward becoming a reproducing disciple and fueling this now global development:

Engage locally

  • Pray persistently for the Holy Spirit to make you a “fisher of men,” one who makes disciples who make disciples.
  • Get the free M28 app or visit and see the Lord’s guidance in starting such a discoveryBible study that leads others to do the same.

  • Read Stubborn Perseverance—a movement manual written as a novel—to understand how discovery Bible study leads to movements, and how your team can pursue one (





Engage globally

  • Pray daily for UPGs, using the Global Prayer Digest ( and Joshua Project (, both available for daily delivery to your email box or smart phone app.
  • Read the Jan/Feb 2018 Mission Frontiers on the 24:14 Coalition ( and join the 24:14 Coalition (
  • Read No Place Left—a thriller saga (Hastening and Rebirth) of how movements are multiplying globally (

  • Take the Perspectives course to see how movements fit into the BIG picture of God’s purpose: (on-line or at a location near you). 

Get a free book and join the learning community at Multiplying Movements (


[2] (Kent leads the mission agency Beyond.)

[3] See the Jan/Feb 2018 Mission Frontiers on the 24:14 Coalition.

[4] Engaged with movement strategy, but not yet reproducing to four generations.

[5] Based on credible reports of 4+ streams replicating to 4+ generations.

[6] Ekklesia is the New Testament Greek word in Jesus’ declaration “I will build my ekklesia” (Mt 16:18). Four English Bibles before the King James translated this word as “assembly,” but the commission for the King James required translators to use “church” instead of “assembly,” apparently to delegitimize gatherings of believers outside the state-owned buildings.

[7] See the “CPM Continuum” at

[8] Movement ekklesia tend eventually to produce the visible churches common to Christian lands. Yet premature planting of visible churches through “extraction” evangelism often offends local UPG communities and inhibits movements. See “Indigenous Movements: How Peoples are Reached” at

[9] See the YouTube video Traits of Churches that Multiply

[10] Report from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, entitled “Table BB. Numerical trends in the worldwide expansion of Christianity, AD 30–AD 2200, with special reference to the 1st century AD.”


[12] and


[14] 2.5% of world population.

[15] 11% of world population.

[16] My estimate is based on published figures for these three movements.

[17] McGavran’s original School of World Mission later opened its doors to aspiring missionaries and became the School of Intercultural Studies.

[18] See “A Church in Every People: Plain Talk about a Difficult Subject” at

[19] My own rough estimate

[20] T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution: The Story Behind the World’s Fastest Growing Church Planting Movement and How it Can Happen in Your Community! by Steve Smith (

[21] Watch for books “for movement activists” by Trevor.

[22] See the May/Jun 2016 Mission Frontiers on the No Place Left movement.


This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

A Leadership Strategy for DMM

A Leadership Strategy for DMM

A Leadership Strategy for DMM

“Lord, You can have your Church back!”

It was February of 2004. I was walking on my favorite hiking trail in the Land Between The Lakes area of Western Kentucky, and I was having an intense time of prayer. I had been in pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years and I was going through a season of discouragement. Although that is certainly not uncommon for pastors, I was at a point where I was ready to question my paradigms for ministry. The local church was not growing as I hoped, and although we were one of the larger churches in our region, I was unsatisfied. In fact, I felt that I was at a crisis point. Something in my life and ministry had to change. As I took my prayer walk that afternoon, I released my own dreams and visions for MY church, and told the Lord that I was ready to simply seek HIS Kingdom. 

At the time of that walk, I was leading a church that had a Christian school and a missions sending agency called World Missions and Evangelism, Inc. I did not know it at the time, but that prayer on that trail put me on a path that would take me out of the pastorate and into a world of seeing remarkable multiplication in God’s Kingdom. It would take me on a journey of discovering new ways to pray, do evangelism, and make disciples as well as new models of church and leadership. 

For the next year and a half, I knew something new was coming, but did not know what. I felt like the Lord was telling me to wait for an open door. Finally in June, 2005 I prayed another unique prayer. I said, “Door….the door God is talking to me about…open NOW!” When I said that I felt the Lord say, “Take the Perspectives course.” Although I was familiar with Perspectives, I had never taken the class. So that summer, I took an intensive two-week version of the class….and one of the teachers was Jerry Trousdale, who told of a remarkable movement that was beginning in Africa. When I heard Jerry talk about what we now call Disciple Making Movements (DMM), I knew that this was the Kingdom focused strategy toward which the Lord was moving me. 

Through Jerry, I was introduced to David Watson, who had catalyzed a movement in India. With one of our missionaries who was focused on Latin America, I took an intensive training in the DMM strategy that David taught. David and Jerry became mentors to us and we decided to see what DMM would look like in Latin America. 

From the beginning I could see that a different model of leadership development would be needed. The methods that were designed to grow a traditional local church would not catalyze a movement. 

In 2008, we initiated DMM training for leaders in Honduras. We developed a tight knit team made up of 13 Honduran workers and two American trainers. We saw this as a pilot project to test how DMM would fare in Latin America. 

Up to this point, concepts and tactics for DMM strategy focused on unreached Muslim and Hindu cultures who had no concept of “church” or “baptism.” Though the principles for DMM were universal, in Honduras we discovered there were challenges translating the strategy into a “Christianized” culture. 

Over the last nine years, through trial and error, our team has seen a breakthrough in several Latin American countries with the DMM strategy. Our team has worked with over 50 denominations and fellowships using DMM principles to make disciples, start Discovery Bible groups and plant churches. Over 7,000 groups and churches have been birthed in a movement, 17 generations deep, and nearly 26,000 people have professed faith in Christ. 

One of the greatest challenges was relating the concept of leadership to a Christianized culture who already had a set model of church government and leadership. In Latin America, these concepts are deeply ingrained. Introducing a new concept of leadership has been vital to seeing the movement flourish. Facilitating a Disciple Making Movement requires a strategy of leadership that embodies certain principles. What we know about DMM is that highly centralized and controlling structures and leaders will kill movement. So what kind of leadership can intentionally catalyze a movement while avoiding control? 

A leader must choose a strategy when trying to accomplish a goal. There are several approaches that a leader can choose and each strategy delivers a different outcome. A leadership matrix can be envisioned around two concepts–initiative and releasing. Initiative leadership moves toward a goal. It initiates something. Leadership is not merely gaining a following or enhancing your own influence and reputation. True leadership is going somewhere, has a goal, and is attempting to accomplish a mission. It initiates. If it did not initiate, then nothing would happen. In the case of DMM, we want to initiate and catalyze a movement in a region or people group. 

Releasing leadership equips then frees others to accomplish the goal or the given mission. It is about releasing others into their own leadership role–allowing the person to move forward with their own initiative and the ability to modify the goal or outcome. The more a leadership pattern is releasing, the less it is controlling and the more compatible it is with DMM principles. 

To bring this over to a church or disciple multiplication example, think of the distinction between a cell leader in an existing church, and a church planter of a new church. The cell leader is equipped and performs ministry, but is under the direction of the pastor and the church mission. The cell leader follows the directions of their leader and teaches an approved lesson. Though released to ministry, there are constraints to the goal or mission. This is an example of a Low-Releasing model. 

On the other hand, the church planter has been equipped as well, but is fully released to plant a new work. The church planter is allowed to initiate and plan the work himself/herself. This is an example of a High Releasing model. 

Most of us will have one style that feels more natural, but there are times when another strategy may be more effective for the goal desired. 

1. Low Initiative, Low Releasing: 

In this style, the leader becomes a caretaker of the organization. However, due to the low initiative, the organization is not going anywhere, there is no goal or no mission being provided by the leadership. The leader is either unwilling or unable to influence people to move in a new direction, and has no sense of future strategy for the organization. With this model, the organization may continue to exist for a time, but eventually may wither or die.

 2. Low Initiative, High Releasing:

 In this style, the leader has the “title” or position of leadership but has little vision or little influence over the direction of the organization. The leader may feel comfortable allowing their followers to initiate leadership more than providing the direction himself/herself. This leadership style seems to encourage leadership from the bottom up, but often results in a plateaued organization or movement. A leader using this style must be very careful. A leader can hinder upcoming leadership or movement by saying “no.” When followers initiate things that may cause a problem, the leader steps in to squelch the new project or idea.

 3. High Initiative, Low Releasing: 

In this style, the leader is a visionary and an activist. The leader sees where the organization or movement should go and takes steps to lead and influence others in that direction. However, the followers are restricted and limited in terms of their own initiative. This type of leadership can be good or bad, depending upon the person and how it is implemented. Military organizations traditionally use this type of leadership. It is top down, directive, and focused. However, it can also be the kind of leadership in an oppressive dictatorship. It can help grow a mega-church and reach thousands with the gospel, but it can be perverted and create a controlling and dominating cult.

 4. High Initiative, High Releasing: 

This style involves the highest risk, but also offers the highest reward. The leader has vision and takes initiative to accomplish a mission and does his/her best to influence others to see the value of the vision and equip them effectively for the mission. The leader influences the follower but does not control those who pick up the vision. This is risky because no control can be chaos. But it also brings the possibility of exponential success. In fact, this is the ONLY style of leadership that has the possibility of boundless success. 

What was the practical impact of these styles of leadership in the intentional facilitation of DMM in Honduras? When our strategy team started in 2008, they invited both experienced church leaders and new potential leaders to hear about the DMM vision and gave them an opportunity to be a part of a new team that would focus on this strategy for one year. In the first year the focus was on training and initial outreach into unchurched areas of western Honduras. It was both training intensive and experimental, with a lot of focus on trial and error in terms of access ministry, finding persons of peace, and discovery Bible study. That first year the style was clearly High Initiative, Low Releasing, and the leaders were the Missionary Strategy Team. 

During this time the DNA of the strategy was being set and the Indigenous Team was being formed and trained. During this year everyone was learning;  both  the  Indigenous Team and the Missionary Strategy Team. This style of leadership allowed the strategy team to learn and make modifications, while not allowing the DNA of movements to be watered down or given up altogether. Beginning with zero groups in May 2008, there were 73 groups by June 2009. 

The next four years (during which time the project grew from 73 groups to 266 groups and churches) were transitional years in terms of leadership style. The Strategy Team gradually moved from a High Initiative, Low Releasing style to a High Initiative, High Releasing style. By the end of 2012, the entire Missionary Strategy Team moved home to the United States and continued as long distance mentors of the Indigenous Team. The Indigenous Team took responsibility for training and mentoring the movement at that time, and the missionaries moved into a role as partners, encouragers, and mentors of the team.

 For the last five years the movement has continued to multiply. By the end of 2017 here were approximately 7,000 groups and churches resulting from this movement. The Indigenous Team (which we now call the Vision Team) has now become a Team of Teams, with each member of the Vision Team focused on developing teams that multiply DMM leaders. 

Overall they employ the High Initiative, High Releasing style of leadership. What does that look like in a DMM in Honduras? In some cases the new teams receive individual visits, one on one with their mentor. New Bible study leaders and trainers/catalysts spend individual face to face time on a regular basis with their mentor. 

In another instance a couple of mentors work together. They are focused on leaders in six different areas and these teams are gathered bi-weekly or monthly for training, reporting or encouragement. 

Another Vision Team leader gathers his team each month for an all-day meeting. The daytime is focused on feedback and problems, the evening on teaching and solutions. 

Another team member focuses on multiple teams divided regionally or by affinity group. This involves a team being trained in a Bible Institute, two teams in the more remote La Mosquitia region, a team in a mountainous coffee growing zone, and university students. 

As the movement grows, some leaders rise to higher levels of responsibility. With more responsibility comes more accountability, thus even in a High Releasing model, people that rise to the level of staff have less freedom. But to see movements multiply the High Releasing model is crucial. To paraphrase Shedonkeh Johnson, “Control will kill movement.”

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Will We Hinder or Accelerate Movements?  The Choice is Ours.

Will We Hinder or Accelerate Movements?  The Choice is Ours.

Will We Hinder or Accelerate Movements? The Choice is Ours.

This is a serious problem! All over the world Christian workers are employing mission methods that hinder the development of movements to Christ. Worse yet, these well-meaning, hard-working, self-sacrificing servants of God may be doing more harm than good. They may be creating a backlash to the gospel that is making the unreached peoples so much harder to reach. This is not just a Western or American missionary problem. This is a global church problem.

Whenever a person from a people or culture where the gospel has become indigenous seeks to go out to make disciples cross-culturally, that person is in danger of extracting new believers from their native culture, family, community and people to join a new artificial family of faith, thereby destroying the natural “bridge of God” for the gospel that this person could provide. When people are extracted one-by-one from their family, clan, tribe or people to form a new community of faith, the reaction from the family these people left behind is often hostile with the potential of bloodshed. Rather than being good news to lost people in darkness, for those left behind, the gospel has come as the “invasion of the body snatchers,” with all the horrors and grief attached to the death of a loved one. Instead of being more open to the gospel, the family, clan or tribe left behind have become more resistant to the loss of any more of their people. This community is now much harder to reach. Dr. Donald McGavran points out this tragic scenario and how to prevent it in his classic article, “A Church in Every People: Plain Talk About a Difficult Subject ” which starts on page 627 of the book, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, A Reader, 4th Edition.

In this latest issue of MF, we revisit the foundational principles of how movements develop and grow that McGavran laid out decades ago. In our lead article, Robby Butler describes the modern-day implications of McGavran’s ground breaking missiology as we pursue movements of disciple making and church planting in every people. See Butler’s article starting on page 6.  This is not light reading but it is essential to understand these principles if we are to successfully foster and accelerate movements rather than preventing them from ever getting started.

As McGavran made clear, Christian history demonstrates one certain reality; the only way that peoples are ever reached is through movements. So if it is our aim to see all peoples reached with the gospel, then we must learn to cross the “bridges of God” into new peoples and start movements to Christ there.

A Better Way

What happens if rather than extracting people from their culture, family or clan; we were to work to keep the new believer within their family to share the biblical truths they are learning with their family and other relational connections?

According to McGavran, Winter, Butler and many others, movements can develop. If the new believer can share biblical truths within his sphere of influence without being expelled, then whole families, clans and tribes can choose to follow Jesus.  It may seem strange or even unbiblical to us as highly individualistic Westerners, but in communal societies groups of people can and do make joint decisions to follow Jesus. You can see throughout the New Testament that whole groups and families did choose to follow Jesus. T&B Lewis point out this fact in their article starting on page 16.

The Lewis' experience illustrates the pitfalls of extraction and the blessings of keeping new believers within their family or clan—what the Bible refers to as their oikos or household. They thought church planting was easy at first when they gathered together a group of people who had left their respective families to join a new artificial “family” of faith. The Lewises soon discovered that this new church was unstable and it soon disintegrated because it wasn’t based upon long-standing trust relationships of family or clan. But then God enabled them to discover a better way of planting churches that kept new believers within their family.

The Lewis' recount their story. “Struggling with our failure to plant a church, we received an entirely unexpected letter. The hand-carried letter notified us that two brothers from our people group had finished a Bible correspondence course. They now wanted to meet a believer. We promptly sent off our best Arabic speaker to their distant town. When he arrived at their house, it was packed. Our team member wondered if he had stumbled onto a wedding, so he hesitantly asked for Hassan, who had written the letter.

Hassan and his brother rushed forward to welcome him into their household. They had gathered all their relatives and close friends to hear their honored guest explain what they had learned in their course. They eagerly received the gospel and pledged as a group to follow Jesus. Our teammate was thrilled. When he returned home, we shared his amazement.

This new church, consisting of an extended family and friends, continues strong to this day. Decades later, they are still spreading the gospel from town to town through their natural networks.”

From the Lewis' account we can see that it is possible for new believers to take the gospel back to their family and not have the gospel or the new believer be rejected. The new churches being birthed were stable and reproducing because they were based upon strong long-standing family relationships. The gospel became good news to these people and they shared it with their wider network of relationships. The gospel was in the process of becoming indigenous—normal and natural—to this family and their people. A potential new movement was also birthed.

We Have a Choice

Even decades after McGavran highlighted the problems with extraction evangelism, around 90% of mission workers still practice it. These well-meaning people have not learned that there is a better way—one that leads to movements. Some even take pride in the suffering and sacrifices that their converts endure to become a “true Christian,” even if it means leaving their family and people behind and burning all bridges of relationship.

While some struggle to make progress with ineffective models of ministry, God is quietly showing the global church a new path that is far more hopeful than anything we have seen since the book of Acts, 2000 years ago. There are many practitioners that are having great success in seeing movements develop all over the world. They have learned to cross the “bridges of God” into unreached peoples. The article by Robby Butler, Glimpses Through the Fog, starting on page 32, tells the astonishing story of what God is doing to foster movements in various unreached peoples. In the year 2000 there were at least 10 movements with 100,000 new disciples. Today, there are at least 645 movements with 47,500,000 new disciples! That is an incredible rate of growth. The number of known movements has increased from 609 to 645 just since our last issue of MF. Read carefully this important article to learn what hinders and what accelerates movements.

The choice is ours. We can continue with missionary methods such as extraction that do not lead to movements or join God in the most exciting and historic opportunity in perhaps 2000 years to foster movements in all peoples. Are you in?

Become a Mission Frontiers Vision Caster

We have only had three weeks to collect donations since the Jan-Feb 2018 issue of MF hit the streets, but the donations have begun to come in. One reader wrote, “I loved reading your January/February 2018 newsletter, and hope that I would be able to organize myself to be an effective part of this work. Enclosed is $200 to start the translation work.” Jean, San Luis Obispo, CA.  To translate each issue of MF, we will need many more gifts such as this. So prayerfully consider giving so that the vision of reaching all peoples can spread much farther. Thanks to the very effective work of the 24:14 Coalition, featured in our last issue, MF has been translated into 10 languages for the very first time.  Go to and click on Articles at the top of the page to view these 10 translations. Share this with all your friends who speak other languages.

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Indigenous Movements

How Peoples are Reached

Indigenous Movements

Indigenous Movements: How Peoples are Reached

By 1975 Donald McGavran and Ralph Winter had guided 1,000 experienced missionaries in studying—globally, and in their own fields: “How are peoples reached?” Answer: indigenous movements. 

However, few outside their direct influence saw either:

  • the biblical model and mandate for indigenous movements, or
  • the historic significance of indigenous movements.

Yet McGavran, Winter and their colleagues concluded:

We cannot say we have evangelized a person until that person can join an indigenous movement in their own society. 

Furthermore, this era of collaborative study revealed that:

  • The Bible (Mt. 28, etc.) calls us to disciple peoples (ethne).
  • Peoples are discipled only through indigenous movements.

The World Consultation on Frontier Missions (Edinburgh ’80) birthed the watchword “A Church for Every People ….”(meaning “a church movement in every people”).

In 1981 McGavran clarified this intent, elaborating:

  • Peoples are only reached by movements, never one-by-one.
  • 90% of work among the unreached ends up with one-by-one.

Today’s Reality

Mission researchers are now tracking more than 600 movements, most having developed just in the past decade. And many of these movements are growing faster and stronger than anything Winter or McGavran saw in their study of past movements.

Yet in retrospect, McGavran’s concerns appear prophetic—and as relevant today as when he first wrote them:

  • In 1985, McGavran estimated that 50% of the world lived among unreached peoples—2.5 billion people. 

Today IMB researchers estimate that 57% of the world lives among unreached peoples—4.3 billion (nearly double).

In what follows I adapt McGavran’s outline with added biblical references and fresh insights from the new movements we see today.  


In the Sept.-Oct. 1997 edition of Mission Frontiers, Dr. Ralph Winter wrote an introduction to the reprint of McGavran’s article, “A Church in Every People: Plain Talk About a Difficult Subject.” Winter said in part,

“In many ways this is the most remarkable article written by the most remarkable mission strategist of the Twentieth Century.” I agree.

What is the most fruitful way to “reach the unreached”?

  • Shall we work toward just one or more growing congregations?
  • Should we aim for a minimal percentage to become believers?
  • Or shall we seek an indigenous movement of multiplying ekklesia?

This goal of indigenous movements must shape our methods. 

The One-by-One Method

Starting a congregation where none existed is relatively easy.

Missionaries arrive, pray, worship together, learn the language, preach the gospel and pray. They love Jesus, talk about Christ, help others in their troubles, and pray. They share scripture portions and practice “friendship evangelism,” and they pray.

Over time a few locals follow Jesus, and a church grows around the missionaries, who urge them to become “a new family.” A new social structure is formed, and a building may be erected.

Such extraction evangelism typically draws the marginalized from several peoples and segments of society—the elderly, youth, orphans, mission helpers and ardent seekers. The result is often a foreign, conglomerate church, alienated from the local peoples. Locals observe, “You are no longer part of us,” and they are right. This is a new social unit which, if it survives at all, becomes a new people group by the second generation.

Such conglomerate churches usually struggle and fold, but the Bible and recent experience reveal a more fruitful approach.

Extraction evangelism makes peoples more resistant.

Such extraction evangelism into conglomerate congregations actually hinders indigenous movements. How? Most unreached peoples place a high value on their group identity. Any group of individuals coming one by one from different peoples and segments of society looks to such peoples like an assembly of traitors who have left “us” to join “them.”

In marriage most such “high identity” peoples insist “our people marry only our people.” Yet when converts join conglomerate churches one-by-one they often feel forced to take a spouse from another group. This alienates the couple from both groups, and their kids are born into “no man’s land.”  

New believers who join such churches are thus often rejected by their relatives—sometimes thrown out or even killed. And when a new believer leaves (or is forced out of) such a tightly-knit segment of society, the Christian cause wins the individual but loses the community. The family, the people group, and even neighboring peoples may be fiercely angry at the new believer, saying: “You have abandoned us. You are no longer one of us.” When this happens, we may win individuals but lose millions.

Conglomerate congregations grow slowly. Worse, they make the pursuit of indigenous movements doubly difficult among the people groups from which the congregation comes. “The Christians misled one of our people,” the group says. “We will make sure they do not mislead any more of us.”

McGavran wrote in 1981:

Perhaps 90 out of 100 missionaries who intend church planting get only conglomerate congregations.

Such missionaries evangelize anyone they can. But they get only those willing to endure the disapproval of their people.

In tightly-knit unreached peoples—where converts are shunned and Christianity is seen as an invading religion—winning and gathering a congregation from different peoples and segments of society erects barriers rather than builds bridges.

One-by-One Can lead to movements.

The one-by-one method sometimes does result indirectly in an indigenous movement. This can happen when believers break with a conglomerate church (and usually from the missionary’s influence) to “revert” (re-adopting their original identity) in order to spread their new faith in a culturally relevant way.

When this happens the faith may spread very rapidly. However in the process it may also lose its mooring in the Bible and become syncretistic. Unfortunately, rather than working with such “renegades” toward grounding such indigenous movements in the Bible, missionaries generally resist such “reversion.”

 Movements: the KEY to Reaching the Unreached

Jesus’ disciples and Paul’s teams modeled multiplying ministry in which existing relational networks and households (oikos) were introduced to the gospel together. This engaged—rather than competing with—existing groupings, then spread to other groupings to enfold and transform whole people groups. Thus Winter quipped, “the ‘church’ (i.e., the ‘committed community’) is already there, they just don’t know Jesus yet.”

[In Acts,] ‘the church that is in their house’ [was] … where family ties and church worship went together, where church … and family authority were often indistinguishable, where church discipline and family respect were one and the same thing, where ‘honor thy father and thy mother’ were … spiritual accountability in the church. … the synagogues of the New Testament period as well as the Gentile-run churches of the New Testament period mainly consisted of a cluster of extended families guided by the elders of those families.

“[In] traditional societies around the world [an indigenous] movement … reinforces, not dismantles, natural families …. 

Seven principles that lead toward movements:

  1. Keep the goal clear

From the beginning the clear goal must be an indigenous movement of multiplying ekklesia through receptive oikos in ways that leave relationships and social structures intact.

Those familiar with winning and incorporating individuals into existing churches must give special attention to this:

  • Don’t seek to win and gather individuals with relative strangers.
  • Do seek to win whole oikos, or help individuals win their oikos.

As Christ transforms existing oikos, they may become ekklesia:

  • enjoying natural social cohesion,
  • fulfilling the “one anothers,”
  • experiencing God’s blessing, and modeling the good news for other households in their people.

In Luke 10 Jesus directs pairs of disciples to seek those who:

  • welcome the message and messengers into their households, and gladly share what they learn with their family and community.

Jesus told His disciples not to go “from house to house,” but to stay with the household that welcomed them. When the disciples left, this household could become an ekklesia.

When we join “God already at work” in this way, we are far more likely to see extraordinary fruit. And when we train new believers to join God at work in the same way, we open the door for an indigenous movement to reach that whole people.

  1. Concentrate on just one people

Work with nationals to find responsive individuals within just one people, like the Nair of Kerala. As the gospel is proclaimed to Nairs, say quite openly,

“God desires that thousands of Nair follow Jesus Christ, yet remain solidly Nair. You whom God calls will become more beautiful Nairs, loving your Nair neighbors better than ever.”

Train new believers to bear persecution with the attitude:

I will be a better son, daughter, father or mother than I was before. I will love you more than I used to. You can hate me, but I will love you. You can exclude me, but I will include you. You can force me out of our ancestral house, but I will live on its veranda or get a house across the street. I am still one of you, more than I ever was before.

Build into new believers a consciousness of 1) God’s love for their whole people and its unique culture, and 2) God’s promise to bless all the clans of the earth—starting with theirs.

  1. Encourage the movement to remain indigenous

In indigenous movements, new believers remain one with their kinfolk in clothing, marriage, etc. They continue to eat with their people, and to eat what their people eat. If their people are vegetarian, new believers do not say, “Since I follow Jesus I can now eat meat.” Rather they become more faithfully vegetarian.

New believers cannot remain one with their people in idolatry, drunkenness or other habitual sin. Nairs who follow Jesus will not worship their old gods; but many Nairs already ridicule their old gods. All Nairs can remain Nairs while abandoning idolatry to follow Jesus.

Indigenous movements empower the lost to join a worshiping community of their own people without embracing western theology, traditions, culture or individualism. For collectivistic societies this may mean an honor/shame-enhanced gospel.

  1. Pursue group decisions regarding “distinctive” obedience

Unreached peoples are typically collectivistic—making decisions as a group rather than as individuals. When first believers in such peoples are baptized individually, their family may reject the new believer as “abandoning us to join them.” 

Train first believers to love and share with their oikos while seeking the Holy Spirit as a group about obediences that may lead their people to see them as joining a foreign religion. 

Disciple individuals to reach their family and community; discuss Bible stories for them to share and discuss with others. Say, “Let’s work to lead your oikos to follow Jesus, so that when you are baptized you may all be baptized together.”

The gospel must involve whole families early, and as much as possible, as with Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippian jailer, etc. Ostracism is highly effective against an individual, but weak against a dozen. And against 200 it has practically no force.

  1. Aim for trusting obedience, not just theological instruction

Leaders often think, “If our people become theologically mature they will attract others to church.” Yet Jesus’ command was to “teach obedience” (Mt 28:20). When obedience to Jesus does not match or exceed our understanding, we are spiritually immature and become a poor witness. We must follow Jesus’ and Paul’s example: modeling the gospel alongside preaching, and immediately engaging new disciples in multiplying. Consider the Samaritan woman and the Gadarene demoniac.

“But,” some may say, “won’t swift engagement of new believers in trustingly obeying and sharing the gospel produce believers who don’t know the Bible? Isn’t this a recipe for creating shallow or nominal believers?”

Both Scripture and today’s movements demonstrate just the opposite. People learn far more from teaching than from being taught. Those who actively share their faith and see the gospel changing lives come to a richer and deeper experience of God’s grace much faster than those who simply listen to the best theological instruction.

Consider the brief months or even weeks of instruction Paul gave those oikos which were becoming ekklesia. We must trust the Holy Spirit, and believe God still calls, equips and sends people out of darkness into His wonderful light.

For a movement to flourish, its leaders and new believers must actively train others to obey the Holy Spirit as He convicts them through discussing the Bible (ideally whole books). How the Holy Spirit leads may surprise us. Yet when new believers are taught trusting obedience to what they see in Scripture—and teach themselves by teaching others to trustingly obey—they mature and reproduce much more rapidly.

  1. Cultivate new believers as pioneers to reach their people

Urge new believers to adopt the attitude:

God has given me the privilege of showing my relatives and neighbors a better way of life. This will be good for thousands of my people who have yet to believe. Look on me not as a traitor, but as a better member of my family and society—a pioneer to bring my people to the fullness of God’s blessing.

Successful indigenous movements lead whole families and communities to see the gospel as good news for their people. The movements in China began only after the Chinese stopped seeing the Church as a competing, foreign religion.

  1. Lead those on the church fringes to reach  their people

Missionaries often look diligently outside the church for “persons of peace” through whom the gospel can spread. Yet wherever conglomerate, westernized churches have been established, such “persons of peace” may be “right under our noses,” on the fringes of the church—drawn toward God, yet still too connected to their community outside the church to fully fit in. These may be seeds for additional movements.

Rather than fighting to break these individuals free from their community to become part of a new “church family,” let us follow Paul’s example with the God-fearers in the synagogues of the Roman Empire. McGavran called these “bridges of God.” Let us equip and encourage them to start indigenous movements among their own oikos and people.


As we pursue God for indigenous movements in every people, let us NOT assume that “one-by-one evangelism is a bad thing.”

One precious soul willing to endure severe ostracism to follow Jesus has repeatedly been blessed by God toward starting an indigenous movement among his or her people.

Extraction evangelism into conglomerate churches is an approach God is blessing to the increase of His Church.

But one-by-one evangelism is a slow approach, and usually hinders movements by increasing resistance to the gospel.

Movements are another approach God is blessing

According to McGavran, “The great advances of the Church on new ground … have always come by people movements, never one-by-one.” This is an approach Jesus modeled in speaking to synagogues, Samaritan villages and crowds, and in sending His disciples to find households open to the gospel.

As Jesus called individuals to become full-time workers, most worked within their group identity to become bridges to whole families, communities, and towns where they brought the blessing of God—the gospel of Jesus Christ. Others, like Paul, were sent to start indigenous movements in other cultures.

McGavran commended this simile from his Bridges of God,

Missions start out proclaiming Christ on a desert-like plain. There, life is hard; the number of Christians remains small. A large missionary presence is required. But, here and there, the missionaries or the converts find ways to break out of that arid plain and proceed up into the verdant mountains. There, large numbers of people live; there, great churches can be founded; there, the Church grows strong; that is people movement land.

Let us seek God for movements while accepting what He gives:

  • Where only individuals are coming to faith, train them to start new ekklesia within their oikos rather than separating them from their family and friends into a “church” family built on the missionary.
  • Pray and work for indigenous movements, adapted to the local context and working within existing social structures to lead multitudes out of darkness into His wonderful life.


The article above is inspired by McGavran’s original article and largely follows his outline and illustrations.

A few further observations:

  • McGavran championed watching for seekers on the fringes of existing churches, then pursuing movements through these seekers (rather than fighting to incorporate them into the church).
  • Winter promoted the complementary idea of sending laborers to pursue indigenous movements in peoples where they don’t yet exist.
  • Laborers today, in nearly 600 movements worldwide, are finding that movements spread fastest when (as in the New Testament) stories of Jesus are freely shared, without reliance on dedicated buildings, paid staff or weekly sermons.
  • Once one indigenous movement is established, it is often fruitful to encourage the leaders to start similar movements in nearby peoples. See the article on page 26 for real life examples of movements fostering movements in nearby peoples.


Ekklesia: Reproducing cells and clusters gathering in Jesus’ name, often daily, to trustingly obey all He commands, as modeled in Acts 2.

Oikos: Household (or other high-trust network of pre-existing relationships) which naturally develops consensus regarding major decisions.

Movement: Four or more streams of disciples/ekklesia, reproducing in each generation (resulting in exponential growth, like compound interest).

Indigenous: Adapted to local culture rather than missionary culture.

People Group: The largest relational network with a shared birth identity through which the gospel can spread as a church-planting movement .Alt.: The largest group in which a marriage can be arranged.

Unreached: A people group with no indigenous movement and no residual evidence of one (i.e. readily available Bibles and a “Christian” identity) .Alt.: A people which fears Christianity, perceiving believers from their people to have “traitorously left their own people to join another people.”

Discovery Bible Study (DBS): A group (generally pre-believers) obeying God as He speaks to them through open-ended discussion of the Bible.

Disciple-Making Movement (DMM): A movement pursued primarily through Discovery Bible Study.

Adopted: An unreached people with a team committed long-term to interceding and advocating for an indigenous movement in that people.

Engaged: An unreached group with 1) a resident team, 2) working long-term, 3) in the local language, toward 4) an indigenous movement.

Fully Engaged: An engaged people with at least one such team for every 100,000 in population.

Church-Planting Movement (CPM) Continuum (abbreviated):


1. Purposeful: Aiming for multiplying believers & ekklesia.

2. Focused: Multiple G1 believers/ekklesia and some 2nd gen (G2)(i.e. some new believers/ekklesia have won/started others).

3. Breakthrough: Multiple G2 believers/ekklesia and some G3.

4. Emerging CPM: Multiple G3 believers/ekklesia and some G4.

5. Full CPM: Multiple G4 streams with consistent growth (each generation reproducing new believers/ekklesia)

6. Sustained CPM: indigenous leaders guide hundreds or thousands of ekklesia, with little/no need for outsiders.

7. Multiplying CPM: catalyzing CPMs in other people groups



This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

The Person of Peace

God's Cultural Bridge to Movements

The Person of Peace

The Person of Peace, God’s Cultural Bridge to Movements

This article is excerpted from the 13th Chapter of The Kingdom Unleashed: How Jesus’ 1st Century Values are Transforming Thousands of Cultures, and Awakening His Church. Coming March 2018. Used by permission of DMM Library. Why are rapidly multiplying, Kingdom movements happening all across Africa and Asia but just a handful are in North America or Western Europe? The Kingdom Unleashed addresses that question in the context of Jesus’ most foundational themes that the Global North often disregards, but which are at the very heart of every movement. 


When we look at mission fields, we quickly recognize both cultural and worldview barriers that stand between the gospel and the lost. What we often do not recognize, however, is that the same is true in the Global North. Cultural mindsets, values hostile to the Kingdom, alternative worldviews, stereotypes, misunderstandings, bad experiences with churches or individual Christians, and a host of other issues create barriers to disciple making that leave both churches and believers unfruitful in engaging their neighbors with the gospel.

Christian values and worldviews are being marginalized at an alarming rate in universities, the news media, entertainment media, and popular culture. Biblical worldviews are categorized as “bigoted,” “uninformed,” or “hateful,” and so Christians are excluded from important discussions about society. We are becoming a marginalized minority with the cooperation of many so-called Christians who adopt ungodly values in the name of being “open-minded.”

Millions of Americans have rejected our religion, but when they discover the person of Jesus in the Bible they are drawn to Him. The trick is finding ways to get a hearing with these people.

Outside of America, cultural issues are the most difficult hurdles that missionaries must overcome; in America, the issue is exactly the same. Christians don’t speak the same language as the general population. We often don’t dress like them. Sometimes we don’t live in the same space as them. So we need a way to get those people to come together and discover Jesus on their own.

The difficulty that we face is finding people who are open to hearing the gospel, and more, who can be “Bridges of God” into communities and social networks that are ripe for the gospel. Fortunately, Jesus gave us instructions on precisely how to do those things.

Barrier Breaker #1: People of Peace: God’s Provision for Access into an Alien Culture

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.” (Luke 10:5-7)

Don’t try to kick in the door—let someone inside open it! —Harry Brown

Jesus sent the Twelve and the 72 (two-by-two) on their healing and preaching tours, telling them to look for a person of peace, someone who, knowing they represented Jesus, would nonetheless welcome them into their village, house them, feed them, and introduce them to the community. The person of peace was thus to be someone who showed spiritual interest and who had a circle of relationships within the larger community.

Jesus also told them that, if they did not find a person of peace, they were to leave, though they were to tell the residents that the Kingdom had come near them—perhaps to lay the groundwork for future engagement. Jesus was clear that if the Father is not drawing them, they are not going to come to Jesus. But if the Father is drawing them, then in effect while you are looking for them, they are looking for you. This is why a level of spiritual interest is so important in identifying persons of peace.

This strategy is followed everywhere that Disciple Making Movements happen in the Global South. Because the person of peace ministry model is very practical and effective some Global North churches and ministries are adopting it in their outreach programs. Still, many churches in the Global North are not yet aware of it. There are several reasons for this.

Global North churches base their evangelistic approach more on their reading of the book of Acts than on Jesus’ words. They see this in terms of proclamation, which generates individual responses of faith. This model underlies crusade evangelism, evangelistic preaching in churches, and even most systems that teach personal evangelism.

Yet a closer reading of Acts shows evidence that persons of peace were involved in spreading the gospel through opening social networks to the gospel. Examples include:

  • Aeneas, Acts 9:32–35
  • Cornelius, Acts 10, esp. vs. 24, 44 (note “all”)
  • Lydia, Acts 16:14–15 (note “household”)
  • Philippian jailer, Acts 16:32–33 (note “all his family”)
  • Titius Justus, Acts 16:7 (note that Paul stayed with him)
  • Crispus, Acts 16:8 (note “entire household”)

This shows two things: The apostolic church made very effective use of persons of peace to introduce the gospel to new social circles, and conversion was often not a purely individual matter. Sometimes in the Global North, we miss opportunities to utilize the power of close family relationships because, in our highly individualized understanding of “salvation,” we don’t think in terms of a family and social networks moving together toward the Kingdom of God.

Households and affinity groups become Christ followers together when a catalytic Kingdom agent introduces the Word of God into a person of peace’s family or social network. Not only have we seen this happen in families, but we’ve also seen this among co-workers, sports teams, and even (now former) criminal gangs.

This process is how billions of the people of the world make major family or communal decisions. A half-century ago, Donald McGavran coined a name for this reality: multi-individual, mutually interdependent decisions, the phenomenon that moved whole communities to abandon animistic and other religions to become faithful disciples of Jesus. McGavran later simplified this to “People Movements.”

This is much more than an imaginary, spiritual group-health concept, where one person gets a job and everybody in the family is spiritually covered. It is a blending of the power of family and community in making a Kingdom choice that will redefine future generations. As Hassan, a leading DMM practitioner says, “The gospel still flies best on the wings of relationship.”

The Person of Peace principle is a simple way for any Christian to assess the spiritual hunger of people that they already know or meet casually, and to determine their interest in self-discovering the Bible in their own home. The reality is that there are many, many people just waiting for someone to extend that invitation. Any organization will typically double their impact when it adopts Jesus’ Person of Peace principle in its strategies, rather than using a mass media or door-knocking approach to ministry.

So how do you identify persons of peace in a community? Before Jesus sent out the Twelve and the 72, He told them to pray. In our efforts to make disciples, we similarly need to begin with prayer.

This is always the vital first step to all Kingdom work. We need to pray for guidance and discernment to identify the persons of peace whom God has placed in our personal mission field, and to pray for our interactions with them.

To put it simply, people who spend a lot of time in prayer are the ones who tend to find people of peace.

Part of the reason for this is that people who are searching and open to hearing the gospel tend to be attracted to people with an active and vivacious spiritual life. Christians who naturally and unselfconsciously introduce spiritual themes into their everyday conversations attract the interest of those who are spiritually open. According to David Watson, people of peace find disciple makers rather than the other way around.

That said, we need to place ourselves in positions where we can connect with persons of peace. These can be almost anyone, male or female, young, old, or somewhere in between. They can be educated or uneducated, respectable in society or not. They can be drug lords, drunks, community or religious leaders, business people, students, or teachers. They can even be hostile (at first) to the gospel.

The point is, it is important not to prejudge the kind of person who will be a person of peace. The only prerequisites are a spiritual hunger and a divine call on their lives, both of which are invisible to us.

Access ministries, sometimes called compassion ministries, discussed in chapter 14, are one important approach used in the Global South to connect with persons of peace. This is readily adaptable to communities in the Global North. But this is just one approach.

For example, Sean Steckbeck often approaches local shopkeepers and asks them, “If you could ask for one thing from God, what would it be?” He then prays with them about it, and comes back later for updates. Other questions are also possible: what do you see as the greatest need in the community? What can our church do to help the community? What can we do to help you? Pray with the person you speak to, and then follow up, taking whatever action is appropriate.

As you build a relationship with the person, it opens the door to asking about needs and challenges in their own life, which in turn can open the door to a Discovery Group using Scriptures that address the person’s (or community’s) needs. This last step is part of an approach that Jimmy Tam teaches his congregation in Los Angeles. This is only one example of an approach that has been successful. Every situation and person are different, and a measure of creativity is necessary, so see this as a jumping off point to help start your thinking.

How much would change if churches taught and pastors modeled simple ways to identify persons of peace and catalyze their families, friends, or co-workers into a simple Discovery Group? This approach is being used by God to harvest millions today in the Global South. Kingdom movements occur because ordinary Christians become Kingdom catalysts—causing or accelerating a reaction that can multiply into hundreds of new Christ followers if given the chance. In New Generations, we have tracked up to 27 generations of discovery groups becoming churches that plant other groups, which also become churches. And there is every reason to expect further generations of churches to be founded by the same method.

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Why Not Simple?

Why Not Simple?

Why Not Simple?

Before I moved to a Muslim-majority country (over two decades ago), I was on pastoral staff at a church in rural upstate New York. I knew a few families who did what they called “house church.” These families had attended our church for a while, then left. They had also left most or all of the other gospel-preaching churches within about a 30 minute drive. No existing church was doctrinally correct enough or Spirit-filled enough or something enough for their taste. So they worshiped by themselves at home and called it house church.

 To my knowledge, those “house churches” brought few if any others to saving faith (except for some of their biological children) and never made a significant impact on the community. Their vision reached no further than being “more biblical” than the churches they had recently left. They seemed to embody the rustic independent spirit of the region. I wasn’t favorably impressed.   

 Over the past year I’ve edited dozens of case studies of Church Planting Movements among unreached peoples. The vast majority of these movements are growing through rapid reproduction of some form of house churches – relatively small fellowships led by non-ordained believers, fitting most or all of the factors described in articles such as Generational Mapping: Tracking Elements of Church Formation Within CPMs”. After asking and receiving answers to my questions about doctrinal soundness, spiritual maturity and sustainability, I’ve come to view house churches such as these much more favorably than the family gatherings of chronic church-leavers I had previously known in the US. These house churches are vibrant and continually multiplying as they reach unbelievers around them. The simple churches that make up most Church Planting Movements facilitate the rapid Kingdom advance that characterizes these movements, a dynamic similar to what we find in the New Testament. 

Among other things, though, I’ve noticed a surprisingly common theme in many of these movements. When asked about challenges their movement faces, many have said, “Our biggest challenge is from other Christians.” I recently edited a case from Asia that said: “Although this country is generally hostile to the gospel, we found that the biggest trouble, by far, came from traditional Christian leaders. They caused much confusion in the new churches as they regularly challenged the ideas that any disciple can make another disciple, can baptize another disciple and/or can serve the Lord’s Supper. From the start of this work until now, traditional Christians have been by far the largest problem the movement has faced.” How tragically ironic that when millions of lost people are coming to saving faith and fellowship with the Living God, the greatest hindrance comes from other Christians! 

 I leave aside suspicion of selfish motives such as sheep-stealing to produce bigger church growth reports or bring in more donations. I leave aside suspicion of religious vainglory: desiring a bigger ministry in order to look and feel more impressive. Hopefully we all agree that such motives (whether implicit or explicit) run contrary to the gospel and the will of Christ whose name we claim. Building a ministry with those ingredients constitutes the wood, hay and straw destined for destruction by God’s holy fire (1 Cor. 3:10-15).  

I appreciate a concern for new believers to enter a fellowship with sound biblical teaching and adequate shepherding. Yet when Christ’s Kingdom is forcefully advancing among those who have never before known him, it seems counterproductive to disrupt the process based on secondary issues, such as points of church order and issues of ordination. The closest biblical parallel that comes to my mind is the Pharisees’ response to Jesus’ healing of a man on the Sabbath (e.g. Luk. 6:6-11; 13:10-17). We see there a stark contrast between powerful Kingdom manifestations and religiously-based criticism. All four gospels portray clearly Jesus’ strong opinion on those subjects.   

 My own reading of the New Testament doesn’t turn up any text requiring that baptism and/or the Lord’s Supper only be administered by an ordained pastor. I understand the reasonable and biblically-based trains of logic explaining the importance of pastoral oversight for the ordinances. Yet these explanations always seem at least one step removed from actual biblical commands or examples. One crucial question would be the Lord’s intended application of the Great Commission (“make disciples of all nations, baptizing them … and teaching them to obey…” Mat. 28:19-20). Was that only for the first apostles? I think most evangelicals would say not. Is it, then, only for ordained pastors? I don’t remember ever hearing anyone make that claim. Is it applicable to all followers of Jesus? If so, the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2:5-9) would seem to extend to the baptizing of new disciples.   

In a similar vein, some object to God’s Word being taught and applied by someone other than a publicly ordained pastor. This seems more a continuation of Roman Catholic clericalism than anything recommended in the New Testament. Limiting preaching to theologically educated clergy severely restricts potential for church multiplication and reaching the unreached. Ironically, the argument often presented most strongly for the necessity of theologically educated clergy (to prevent false teaching) turns out to be spurious. The spread of liberal theology and decimation of mainline churches in the Western world came largely through, rather than being prevented by, theological higher education.     

In the denomination in which I was raised, I often heard unhappy comments about young people who went off to seminary excited about Jesus and the Bible, and graduated not believing strongly in either. I think theological education has great value, but I don’t buy the argument that it prevents bad theology or guarantees sound and edifying teaching. Major heresies seem to arise far more often from a talented charismatic preacher/teacher whose followers hang on every word, than from small groups of believers inductively studying the Bible and living out the applications they feel the Spirit giving for their lives. Consider not only Mormonism and the Watchtower Society, but also heresies named after their progenitors, such as Sabellianism, Arianism, and Apollinarism. Small group Bible studies with accountable life application may miss some hermeneutical nuances, but they generally pose less theological danger than polished one-way communication to large admiring crowds.  

In the eighteenth century, John Wesley’s lay preachers both scandalized the religious establishment and brought salvation to huge numbers who would have otherwise never heard. The unflinching accountability of his small group “class meetings” cemented those preachers’ fruit into fellowships of growing disciples. Yet more than two centuries of zealous effort by “lay” preachers plus ordained preachers has still left us too far from the goal to “make disciples of all nations.” What if we find (as seems to be the case) that small groups inductively studying the Bible can sufficiently understand God’s message to become rooted and established in Christ? What if their mutual accountability leads to lifestyles of obedience and effective evangelism of the unreached? What if God’s Spirit is able to lead his people into all essential truth and raise up generations of leaders through life-on-life discipleship and on-the-job training by believers more mature in the faith? I propose that we do whatever we can to encourage such movements of advancing biblical faith. This would include not trying to pull multiplying house fellowships toward our own denominational structure or flavor of ministry.   

As I’ve sought to understand nay-sayers’ concerns about the validity of simple/house churches, the issues usually seem to boil down to one or more of the following: 

1. People are not baptized by an ordained person.

2. The Lord’s Supper is not served or overseen by an ordained person.

3. The fellowship is led by a person with no formal theological education.

4. The group is not registered with or recognized by the national government.

5. The group is not associated with any recognized Christian denomination.

6. The group doesn’t have a formal written creedal statement. 

I don’t see the New Testament presenting any of these as an essential element of a God-pleasing church. From a NT perspective, they seem best viewed as “adiaphora”—actions neither mandated nor forbidden. (For more details, see my article “What is Church? From Surveying Scripture to Applying in Culture” in EMQ October 2011.) I don’t criticize a church that has or practices any of these things. But I believe Jesus stands strongly against those whose “teachings are merely human rules” (Mat. 15:9), and who use such rules to oppose other believers, thus hindering advance of his Kingdom. 

Can we agree that God intends us to use New Testament teaching as the standard for his church? Can we not attack, criticize or steal sheep from one another based on added patterns that our own group believes will be a helpful addition? Maybe that’s a radical idea. But when simple church can effectively accomplish God’s purposes, why not simple?

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


People of a War-time Lifestyle


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 (, 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 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?



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?



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?



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?




God is Using Movements to Reach the Unreached

by Dr. David Garrison

Just over 20 years ago the term Church-Planting Movements first entered our missionary vocabulary. At the time, we were marveling at the anomalous emergence of churches reproducing churches at a rate we had only read about in the New Testament book of Acts. Hoping to learn from these extraordinary works of God, I tapped out a 57-page descriptive booklet in 1999, called "Church Planting Movements."

That little booklet circulated around the world with indigenous translations in more than 40 languages (see As it turns out, the four movements we initially profiled were just the beginning of a Kingdom wave that would usher in millions of new believers in the years that followed.  

Today the Body of Christ continues to learn new ways to apply the dynamic principles of CPM. God is using faithful servants to catalyze new movements in Hindu, Muslim, secular, urban, rural, Western, and non-Western settings all over the world. 

Following are five brief glimpses of how God is using CPM principles to yield a harvest in Africa, Asia, Haiti and Florida.

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 ( 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 ( 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 January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?



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?



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 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 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!


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.



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




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:




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



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 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?



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?

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:

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?



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 under this article.

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


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:

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.


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!


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.


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

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?


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

• 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


• Take a “trial balloon” group through the Zume training material at (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—

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.


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.

[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.

[3] United States Census Bureau.

[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.

[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.

[9] Tucker, Joseph D., et al. 2010. “Syphilis and Social Upheaval in China.” New England Journal of Medicine; 362:1658-1661.

[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.

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”).


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, 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.

[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.


[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, 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

Save the Girl Campaign

Learn more about 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

[For more information about how to get involved individually, as a team, a church, an organization or a network, go to 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]


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


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.


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,

[4] Thakur, M. (2016, January 22). Beti Bachao delivers gains in Haryana, but gaps remain. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from


[5] Sandhu, K. (2015, June 12). Haryana village initiates contest for ‘best selfie with daughters’: Beti Bachao, Selfie Banao. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from

[6] Siwach, S. (2016, July 14). Activists to adopt 2 Haryana villages having worst sex ratio - Times of India. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from

[7] Gender Equality & Social Justice. (2014). Retrieved July 21, 2016, from Prayatn,


[8] Adorna, C. (2005). UNICEF endorses multi-faith campaign against female foeticide. Retrieved July 19, 2016, from UNICEF India,

[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:

[3] Data from the National Statistical Institute and the Economics Institute with the Bulgarian Academy of Science.


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.


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

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!