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

Rapid Mobilization: How the West Was Won

Rapid Mobilization: How the West Was Won

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Case Study

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

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

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

The Joseph Movement

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

Creation             2 chapters

Fall/Cain 2 chapters

Genealogies         4 chapters

Noah                 4 chapters

Abraham            12 chapters

Isaac                  2 chapters

Jacob                 9-10 chapters

Joseph                14 chapters

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

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

The Joseph Movement Parallels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Joseph Movement: A Vision

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

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

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

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

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

Our Role in Hastening “No Place Left”

Excerpted from Hastening

Our Role in Hastening “No Place Left”

Used by permission of 2414 Ventures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John contemplated these words.

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

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

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

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Let’s Grow Movements, Not Destroy Them

Let’s Grow Movements, Not Destroy Them

It is a simple fact of life: it is far easier to destroy than it is to build. It is the same way with fostering Kingdom Movements of disciple-making and church-planting. It is far easier to pursue popular mission practices that kill movements or keep movements from ever starting than it is to work wisely with the Holy Spirit in ways that enable movements to start and grow exponentially. Fostering growing movements is not just about doing all the right things, but also stopping all the things we do that kill movements. We need to hunt down and destroy every mission practice that kills movements, no matter how fond we are of them. These deadly mission “viruses” stand in the way of achieving our goal of growing movements to Christ in every people and place so that every person on earth may have access to the gospel. If the mission practices you are pursuing are on our “Most Wanted” list of movement killers, prepare to rethink what you are doing and align yourself with those proven mission practices that lead to multiplying movements.

Re-Align Yourself for Growing Movements

For over 20 years mission leaders have been re-discovering the Book-of-Acts-like practices that God uses to birth disciple-making and church-planting movements. These practices are continually being honed and refined as mission workers seek to apply these movement principles to various peoples, cultures and contexts. While allowing for adaptation to specific contexts, there is also a great degree of alignment to agreed-upon movement principles that is required if a movement is to occur at all.  Serious deviation from these movement principles will kill an existing movement or prevent one from ever starting. There are many mission agencies out there that want to claim they are pursuing movements for publicity and fundraising purposes, but their mission practices bear little resemblance to the movement principles that actually make movements possible. So when you hear some mission organization claim they are using movement methods in their work, be an informed mission activist and look more closely at what they are actually doing.

Every mission agency that wants to foster movements must re-align their mission practices to those of movement catalysts who have actually fostered Kingdom Movements. This is not a time for everyone to try to reinvent the “movement wheel.” There are hundreds of people out there who have real world, on-the-ground experience in successfully starting movements and who know the basic principles that make movements work. We need to learn from these movement catalysts and use them to train up thousands of new movement catalysts to start movements in every people and place. See the article by Neil Cole starting on page 27 to learn the essential qualities of multiplying movements.  A key take-away from this article is that most mission strategies focus on adding new people while growing movements focus on methods that multiply disciples.  Mission strategies focused only on addition is another movement killer.

Money, “the root of all kinds of evil” in Movements

You will notice that one of the movement killers most frequently mentioned in this issue of MF is foreign money. Over many years we have frequently talked about how foreign money can cause tremendous problems in our mission outreach. As Dr. David Garrison has said, “outside money is the surest way to kill a movement.” The wonderful article by Jean Johnson starting on page 16 goes into great detail in explaining why outside money is such a deadly force in movements. The first rule of movements is that whatever you do must be infinitely reproducible generation after generation. The ministry DNA you start with is what will be reproduced in all future generations of believers and churches. If you start with defective DNA, you may never see your disciples make more disciples. Outside money is not good reproducible ministry DNA. Not every generation of new believers can go back to the original donor for more money. Foreign money will also communicate to new believers that they need outside money in order to reach out to their friends, family and beyond. It will also communicate to unbelievers that these believers are doing what they are doing because foreigners are paying them. This is a great way to keep the gospel from becoming indigenous to a people and killing any movement.

No matter what the mission strategies are that seek to kill movements, we must identify them and stop them before they can kill again.

Become a Mission Frontiers Vision Caster

Mission Frontiers exists to cast the vision and provide the resources to foster Kingdom Movements in every people and place so that every person may have access to the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ as soon as possible. But we cannot do this without the partnership of you, our readers. Producing Mission Frontiers six times a year is not inexpensive. There are fixed costs that must be met regardless of how many subscribers we have. Subscriptions and advertising do not cover our expenses. We need people who believe in what we are doing and are willing to come alongside us in the following ways.

Pray: We need people to pray for the success of our mission to mobilize the global Church to focus on fostering Kingdom Movements in all peoples and places. The enemy of our souls would like to silence us because our message is a direct threat to his territory among the unreached peoples.

Donate: We need your donations—both large and small—if we are to cover our costs and then go on to expand this ministry into other languages. We need committed regular support from the many readers who believe in this work. But even if you can only afford $25 or $30, every little bit helps. To give, please go to click, on the Donate button and put MA 030 in the dialog box to cover MF general expenses. To donate to Rick Wood and his ministry with MF put MA323 in the dialog box. Thank you.

Share: The farther the material in MF spreads, the better it is for accomplishing our mission. We give free permission for people to reprint material that originates with MF and is not reprinted from another source. We only ask that you give us source credit and that you provide a link back to the MF website when reprinted material is posted online. On our website at are PDFs of each article and issue. Please download these PDFs, print them and share them as widely as possible with others. Every time you do, you help to accomplish our mission.

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Mission Viruses That Can Kill Disciple Making Movements

Mission Viruses That Can Kill Disciple Making Movements

C. J. Peters’ life is the stuff of legend. For 30 years he traipsed the world’s most remote places hunting hot viruses and then chronicled his Indiana Jones life in a fascinating book (Virus Hunter: Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World). Hot viruses are the ones known to be lethal to human life, like Ebola. It is more obvious today than ever before that we need people like C. J. on the dangerous front line identifying threats to human life before they are allowed to ravage through populations, indiscriminately extinguish human lives.

Not only are there viruses that can extinguish human life, but there are also viruses that stop dead in its tracks the movement of the Good News of Jesus. Wait, I know what you are thinking, “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” We are not saying that there is anything wrong with the biblical gospel, but often the very methods we use to plant the gospel are counter-productive to it reaching the commission Jesus gave us.

Whether it was Baron Justinian von Welz, a Lutheran noble of the 17th century, or Hudson Taylor in the 19th century who coined or popularized the term “Great Commission,” it has become synonymous with the
mission of Jesus’ followers. We are called to “make disciples” of every ethne. Regardless of the etymological arguments surrounding ethne, it is universally accepted that we are called to give every man, woman and child a repeated opportunity to see, hear and respond to the message of Jesus.

With the Great Commission as our primary mission, it seems necessary that we would want to hunt those things that keep this Good News from spreading. And spread it has over the past twenty years; we are seeing an increase in small outbreaks of the Good News spreading virally through populations even in the most difficult of circumstances (see Justin Long’s blog for details). There are over 1,350 church planting movements currently being reported and at New Generations we are involved in 127 movements that have spread far and wide enough for us to be able to identify “virus killers” of these gospel movements.

Just as C. J. Peters’ work is valued by all sectors of society, especially in the midst of a pandemic, so must the work of our “virus hunters” be seen as paramount in gospel ministry. Why? Because there is nothing more important than eradicating gospel poverty. Early in Jesus’ discipling of the Twelve He taught them to pray, “may it be on earth as it is in heaven.” There is no gospel poverty in heaven. In the kingdom of heaven everything is ordered on the character of the King. The glory of God our King, in His experienced goodness, orders heaven because He is the king and it is His kingdom. Everyone there is a child of the King because of the gospel.

As we seek to fuel the efforts of fulfillment of the Great Commission we see that that fulfilling the promise of Habakkuk 2:14—finding and extinguishing everything that hinders, creates friction and stops the movement of the gospel—becomes our priority.

Biological viruses are classified on the basis of shared properties and grouped at different hierarchical levels of order, family, subfamily, genus and species. More than 30,000 different viruses are known today and grouped in more than 3,600 species, in 164 genera and 71 families. Disciple Making Movement killing viruses also come in families with a variety of expressions. Let’s look at five families of viruses and the species that find their way into some movements of the gospel.

Exceptionalism: a dependency on individuals with exceptional passions, enthusiasm, temperament, skill and gifts.

Materialism: the naive practice of allowing money into the wrong places in movements.

Professionalism: the inherent belief that the trained, qualified or certified are more dependable than those who lack formal training.

Mechanicalism: a belief that movements are a matter of physical effort rather than spiritual power.

Partialism: the practice of fusing several different movement strategies together.

Exceptionalism (not in order of priority) is a cultural phenomenon that plagues humanity. Whether it is a set of letters before or after a name or public acclamation for talent, we have a fond affection for the exceptional. It doesn’t matter if it’s music, athletics, academics or the Church, those with exceptional skills are often elevated to positions of influence or counted more valuable that the rest.

Exceptionalism in movements arises when we become dependent—for instance—on highly gifted trainers. Training rubrics that require better than average presentation skills eliminate ordinary disciples from passing on the training. The problem is not with having some gifted practitioners, but for the gospel to consistently multiply through ordinary people everything has to multiply at every level. That means that all activities that foster movement must be available to the everyday people. If outreach strategies require special skills, if training can’t be delivered by ordinary people, if coaching regimes can’t be accomplished by ordinary people or then a movement will experience friction due to the dependence on exceptionally talented people.

The theological antidote to exceptionalism is found in the concept of the priesthood of the believer. Peter calls each follower of Christ a royal priest (1 Pet. 2:9) and declares that we have everything pertaining to life and godliness.(2 Pet. 1:3) Not to mention that Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations is given to every disciple since the first. However we organize the progress of the gospel, it must be bounded by the truth that every disciple gets to play, not just for a few exceptionally gifted ones. It is very common for people who seem very ordinary when they experience Disciple Making Movements (even oral learners or people who have not seen themselves as leaders before) to become extraordinary disciple-makers and church-planters.

Materialism addresses the relationship between money and movement. There is no argument that it takes resources to get the gospel where it is not. The controversy arises with how much, when and from whom does the money come.

Money paid to those involved in movement activity challenges the motives of those receiving the money and potentially creates a dependency between giver and receiver. The question arises: if there is no money will there be movement activity? Often, there is not.

Frequently money is best used to further activity that was already in progress. When you find a movement activist who could go further or faster with an investment toward transportation or Scripture resources for example, you have a situation where money and movement work. Since most movements are started by movements it is not unusual for movements to send workers to nearby neighbor groups that don’t have the gospel available. Financial investment is necessary for these activities.

Not only is money and dependency an issue but also the use of money by “outside actors.” More than once fruitful leaders of movement activity have been lured away with money to another organization. The result is that the bad actors have surprising numbers they can report to their donors for a while because they have purchased them, but eventually the virus of dependency rises and often the movement slows or dies.

Professionalism is a two-edged sword. Certainly, gaining greater excellence of knowledge and skill is a worthy cause. When professionals appear, however, the masses begin to develop the attitude of leaving it to the professionals and it unintentionally creates passivity.

One of the maxims of movement is that an untrained insider is always more effective than a trained outsider. This cuts against the grain of a culture that values subject matter experts. It especially challenges cross- cultural workers and those who love to “do ministry” in foreign fields. In movements there are no heroes nor hero-makers, only ordinary people responding in obedience to Jesus.

Jesus, upon healing the Gerasenes demoniac, refused to allow him to accompany the disciples but instead sent him home to speak of what God had done for him. This was a far cry from the route of qualifying, certifying or even the ordaining practices that we use today. Even at the site of Jesus’ last command in Matthew 28, we are told in verse 16 that while some doubted, Jesus didn’t hesitate to commission both doubters and worshippers. Jesus’ practice was to release the willing rather than trust the qualified.

When the West hears of viral movements of the gospel in the east, the scientific thinking of the West kicks in; dissect, isolate, formulate and repeat. The desire to spread spiritual revolution globally is innocent and virtuous. Unfortunately, movements are God ordained and even though we can isolate certain practices that contribute to movements, they are in no way mechanical.

Mechanicalism denies the supernatural nature of the Spirit in the movement of the gospel. With great regularity we can correlate impressive movements of the gospel with equally impressive outpouring of prayer. It would be a mistake to think we can simply raise the amount of hours we pray to generate movement. I live in a city that has had 24/7 prayer for years and yet have only seen short glimpses of gospel movement. We cannot bribe God with our prayers. But when extraordinary prayer and radical obedience meet with God’s heart for the lost, He tends to do amazing things.

Similarly, many have gone through Disciple Making Movements training and become enamored with Discovery Bible Study (DBS). Mistakenly believing that Disciple Making Movements are synonymous with the obedience-based discovery Bible processes, they aggressively pursue the implementation of DBS believing a movement will break out. Again, God rejoices when His followers are obedient to His wisdom, but this one element rarely spawns a movement.

There may be a set of irreducible minimum habits found in gospel movements but they are not a mechanical process that can be reproduced at human will. When God ordains and humans cooperate, movements can break out.

Partialism is the last family of movement viruses we will address here. More than once I have watched very smart individuals from historic institutions sit in training by experienced movement catalysts, only to leave the training and during implementation add, subtract or self-style the habits of movements.

There is something deep, especially in Americans, that when confronted with something exciting responds, “I have a better idea.” In the face of experience and proven results, we often believe we can make it better. Rather than practice what we are taught and let experience be our teacher, we practice an ignorant hubris by changing well worn practices.

Another species of this virus in the western tradition is fusion. A rage in the food world now, you can find any mixture of ethnic cuisines smashed together. Oftentimes, out of naïveté, new practitioners of movement strategies take a little from here, a little from there and self-style their own version of a movement strategy.

Despite the fact that most movements end up at the same place, they don’t always take the same route to get there. The reasons may reside in many different variables, but denying the differences robs practitioners of different tools they can use to be more effective in varying circumstances.

The word “movement” describes a gospel-phenomenon that signals changing from addition thinking to multiplication thinking. This thinking moves the potential of the progress of the gospel beyond population growth and bringing into view the prospect of fulfilling the Great Commission. That potential should be shepherded as aggressively as humanly possible. Viruses that threaten to kill movements must be brought into the light and killed as quickly as possible.

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Rockets and Murder

Rockets and Murder

The contrasts couldn’t be starker.

In May 2020 we saw the best and worst of humanity here in the U.S. We launched men into space.

We saw a man die needlessly at the hands of those appointed to “serve and protect.” We have seen both before, but both were also different this time.

The rocket which propelled two astronauts to the International Space Station was produced by a private company (with government funding) that used new technology, redesigned from the ground up, including a booster rocket that returns to earth to be reused.

Amazing to watch!

The murder of a black man by a white police officer has created a broader outcry from police officials around the country. One police chief said to her department, “If you believe that the treatment of the officer in that video is acceptable, turn in your badge.” I expect that the vast majority of police officers were horrified by what they saw also. They deeply desire to serve with honor and deserve our support to receive better training and different administrative systems so these incidents are rarer every day.

A horror to see!

What happened to George Floyd was painful to watch. We know it happens globally—out of the views of cameras. Yes, it is systemic in several ways. At the core: when people take power and authority on their own terms, not God’s way, it will end badly. That is clear throughout the Bible, from Eve and Adam down to us today.

We can’t solve these kinds of problems by only “teaching our kids differently.” We know that things like this will happen again. It seems that while we can advance technology and use it to literally get off the earth, we can’t change peoples’ hearts.

So, beyond the need for spiritual transformation, what do we do? I have all kinds of ideas, backed by experts (or so I think). But instead, below are a few of my reflections that might give a bit of hope and perspective.

God-Ordained Authority

When you look at human-on-human evil in the world, much of it is caused (or not prevented) by police or military. Using their official capacity, they either 1) abuse those under their control, or, 2) don’t resist evil done by others.

This is a crucial area of God’s truth we must get right and teach. The Scriptures from Daniel to Romans 14 (among others) teach us that God puts authorities in place—Christian or not, from the top leader to, in this case, the police and military. They wield God’s authority when they do their job. With this comes a serious responsibility and accountability to God—even if they don’t believe He exists, someday they will give an account of what they have done!

Training to De-escalate

You do what you have been trained to do. A former police officer and detective whom I know served in a major city on the east coast. When they were training in firearms, they were told to hold their shells as they fired and dispose of them when they are done. After all, the logic went: keep the firing range clean, make it quicker and easier to reset for the next group. The only problem is that when the officers finished training and were in real-life situations using their weapons, they did as they were taught. As a result, in those tense and emotion-filled situations where they were fired upon, officers were getting injured or worse!  So, they had to re-train them. Everyone went back to the firing range and were told “let shell casings fall to the ground.”

So what kinds of re-training are needed?

Here is one idea:

A family we know has a son diagnosed with major emotional issues and it is a painful story. When they were living in the U.K, their son ran off in the middle of the night. When they called the local police and the “bobby” (or officer) arrived, he did not even have a gun. But he had skills and was trained in de-escalating situations. That night, he helped to find and calm down their son and bring the situation under control without any shouting or shooting.

It got me to thinking: do I need retraining for how I think and act related to those different from me? We all have God-given authority through the Spirit. How do we use it?

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Are We ACCELERATING or INHIBITING Movements to Christ?

Are We ACCELERATING or INHIBITING Movements to Christ?

Those with a heart for unreached peoples have the choice to pursue certain behaviors that have the potential to accelerate the spread of the gospel. These “accelerators” may help a new fellowship in an unreached people group become a large-scale movement to Christ. By contrast, we may consciously or inadvertently deploy “inhibitors” that may make it difficult for that fellowship to ever become a movement.

A Word about Movements

The term “movement” implies rapid growth in the number of believers, beyond the influence or control of the ones who introduced the gospel. “Church-planting movements”, such as the ones discussed in David

Garrison’s Church Planting Movements, generally refer to Christians, whereas “insider movements” generally refer to Jesus followers who remain within their ethno-religious identity (e.g. Muslim or Hindu insider movements).

In this article my focus is on “movements” in general, whether church-planting movements or insider movements. My interest is in behaviors that tend to accelerate the spread of the gospel, regardless of the ethno-religious identity that is chosen by the new disciples of Jesus.

Expectations of Kingdom Growth

Jesus told three parables that predicted the rapid spread of the kingdom of heaven: the Parables of the Yeast, the Mustard Seed, and the Sower. The first conclusion that we can draw from these three parables is that Jesus expected dramatic growth in his Kingdom.

In the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matt. 13:31-32), Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed… Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree.”

In the Parable of the Yeast (Matt. 13:33), Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large of amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

And in the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:20), Jesus says, “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what was sown.”

A Strategy for Kingdom Growth

The second conclusion that we can draw from these three parables is that Jesus had a specific strategy in mind for spreading the gospel in order to achieve dramatic growth. He recommended implanting the gospel like yeast so that it leavens, and planting it like a seed so that it grows in the new soil.

The common theme of these parables is that the gospel is something very small that is introduced into another culture and transforms it. Yet we often introduce the gospel into another culture with significant amounts

of cultural and religious traditions associated with it. This “baggage” makes it harder for a new people to embrace the gospel because they see it as a foreign cultural and religious system, rather than a relationship with the person of Jesus that they can pursue within their own cultural and religious traditions.

Contextualizing the Gospel

Contextualization has become well-established as essential to successfully implanting the gospel in another culture. But while contextualization is indeed an excellent strategy, is it a sufficient strategy to lead to movements to Christ? Missionaries have been applying the principles of contextualization, even radical contextualization, for generations. Yet in most instances, these principles have not led to movements to Christ. What could be missing?

I believe that contextualization is insufficient on its own to lead to movements, because two other factors need to be taken into account—identity and community. While the gospel may be introduced in a highly contextualized manner, the identity that new believers choose and the way they interact with their community will have a great effect on whether others from their culture will make a similar choice to follow Jesus.

Theory vs. Practice of Contextualization

Before I elaborate further, let me say that I believe many of the authors on contextualization intended contextualization to include both identity and community when they wrote of a contextualized approach to spreading the gospel. Therefore, it is not the theory of contextualization which is lacking, but the way it is practiced by many.

For many, the practice of contextualizing the gospel has been primarily cultural: the attempt to present the gospel consistently with local cultural forms, using local language, wearing local dress, using contextualized translations of the Bible, etc. However, these attempts to culturally contextualize the gospel are often practiced along with behaviors that are at odds with full contextualization.

Foreign Identities and Extracted Communities

A culturally-contextualized gospel can be presented in a way that leads new believers 1) to adopt a new identity that other locals perceive as foreign, and 2) to associate with other new believers that other locals perceive as extracted communities. Thus, a new fellowship of believers may express a culturally contextualized gospel, yet have a foreign identity and be considered an extracted community.

To the extent that new believers are perceived by others as having chosen foreign identities and joined a foreign religious community, the opportunity for the gospel to rapidly spread in that people group is

dramatically diminished. This will be true even if they are highly contextualized culturally; their foreign religious identity and membership in a foreign community counteracts the benefits of their cultural contextualization.

Inhibitors vs. Accelerators of Movements

If we are to establish fellowships that have the potential to lead to movements to Christ, we need to recognize the “inhibitors” and “accelerators” of movements. “Inhibitors” are actions that may bring short-term results, but are likely to inhibit fellowships from becoming movements to Christ. “Accelerators” are actions that may take a little longer, but are likely to encourage fellowships to become movements to Christ.

Accelerators for Individualistic vs. Communal Cultures

“Individualistic cultures” are highly individualized with fractured families that don’t live in extended community (i.e., the majority of Western cultures). “Communal cultures” are community-oriented with

tight-knit families that live in extended community (i.e., the majority of Muslim and Hindu peoples). Gospel- spreading strategies that are most effective for individualistic cultures will tend to be less effective for communal cultures, and vice versa.

For example, a communal culture places a high value on keeping its members part of the community, and will tend to resist any religious invitation that will lead its members to become “separate” or “foreign.” Individualistic cultures are more fragmented, and its members have greater freedom to separate from those around them into a separate sub-culture.

Therefore, a gospel-spreading strategy that leads to foreign identities and extracted communities will face higher resistance in a communal culture. Family members and community members will tend to exert great pressure on new believers to “return to the fold,” and if they don’t do so, they will tend to expel them from the community and have nothing further to do with them. Thus, the new fellowship of believers may seem successful from an outside perspective, yet they may have limited ability to reach back into their community with the gospel of Jesus.

Spreading the gospel in a communal culture should be done in a way that is more likely to lead to movements to Christ. It should lead to communities of believers that are not seen as “foreign,” but as “still part of our community,” so that the gospel can spread more easily.

Workers from Individualistic Cultures

One challenge is that many cross-cultural workers spreading the gospel in communal cultures (e.g., Muslims or Hindus) are themselves from individualistic cultures (e.g., North America or Europe). Therefore, they may unwittingly pursue gospel-spreading strategies that are better suited for individualistic cultures than

communal cultures. They may even be expected to do so if they are sent by Western mega-churches that have experienced great success by pursuing strategies well suited for their individualistic cultures.

Sending-churches from individualistic cultures should consider whether their church-planting strategies may actually inhibit movements to Christ in communal cultures. A concern frequently expressed by cross-cultural workers is that their sending-churches may reject them if they pursue “insider” strategies for communal cultures.

Seven Accelerators or Inhibitors for Communal Cultures

I suggest seven dimensions where certain actions may accelerate or inhibit movements to Christ in communal cultures: Identities, Communities, Leadership, Fellowship, Practices, Doctrine, and Independence. Tables 1 through 7 suggest examples of actions in each dimension that will tend to accelerate or inhibit movements.

Missionary teams and their support networks may find these tables useful in prayerful planning and evaluation. Any one action in isolation is unlikely to significantly influence a movement. But—taken in whole—consistent use of accelerators in communal cultures is more likely to result in movements to Christ than consistent use of inhibitors.

For instance, consistent use of inhibitor actions will tend to result in extracted communities of believers with foreign identities and foreign religious practices. These extracted communities will have difficulty reaching the communities from which they’ve been extracted. Conversely, consistent use of accelerator actions will lead to transformed communities of believers with insider identities and contextualized religious practices that are far more likely to spread the gospel like yeast through the dough of existing communities. (Matt. 13:33)


Conclusion: Comprehensive Self-Contextualization

The unifying theme to all these movement accelerators is “comprehensive self-contextualization.” It’s “comprehensive” because it goes beyond cultural contextualization to encompass identity, community and various aspects of church. It’s “self-contextualization” because foreigners are unreliable guides for what is appropriate for believers in a particular ethno-religious situation.

We have to be willing to allow local believers, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the discipline of Scripture, to discern what is most appropriate for their context. We have to be willing to echo the early church leaders in Acts 15:28—“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following…” The early Jewish leaders released the Gentile believers to comprehensively contextualize their identity, doctrines and ways of “doing church.” The Gentile believers then penetrated existing communities throughout the Roman Empire and beyond with this contextualized gospel. The result was the most dramatic movement to faith in the history of Christianity!

May God bring about similar movements among all the peoples of the earth. May we be granted the wisdom to accelerate, rather than inhibit, these movements.

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Using Foreign Money to Start, Sustain and Speed Up Movements

Using Foreign Money to Start, Sustain and Speed Up Movements

Picture this: there was a couple working in a northern province of Cambodia in the late 90s. One day, they shared with other missionaries that they had started many house churches in the area. Their testimony piqued the interest of those missionaries as they too longed for such results. On the one hand, they were elated to hear the good news. On the other, they were curious as to why this couple was so successful when they came in and out of the country and barely spoke the language.

One day these House Church Movement (HCM) pioneers were waiting alongside the road in town. While waiting, they struck up a conversation with another missionary. As they were chatting, a big truck filled with motorcycles pulled up alongside of them. Immediately, the couple explained to the missionary that they bought the motorcycles for the house church leaders so they could lighten their load as they spread the gospel to other villages. In the long run, it was a just a short time before the foreign resources bled the life out of the House Church Movement.

Now contrast this story with an account from my friend whom I will call only by her first name, Sarah. Sarah has been working diligently to launch sustainable Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) in Cambodia up
to the present day. In one particular situation, Sarah had been visiting a “family of peace” for the purpose of sharing the gospel and making disciples. In this family, a brother and sister in their 20s put their faith and trust in Jesus and it was starting to look like the beginnings of a movement. But as time went along, she ran into a snag when the mother of the family and the older sister asked Sarah for money to buy a motorcycle. Sarah graciously declined to give or borrow the money for this family. From that point on, the mother forbid Sarah from visiting the family ever again.

Bleeding the Life Out of Movements

Wow! Two very different mindsets and methodologies between these two movement catalysts. Sarah was thinking ahead and the other couple was only thinking about the short-term. Sarah worked to sustain and multiply her movement efforts without injecting foreign money and the other couple crippled their movement efforts using foreign money.

Personally, I would rather have potential Persons of Peace reveal the true intentions of their heart or spiritual condition than have them half-heartedly join in a movement effort for Jesus Christ because of mixed motives. Furthermore, Sarah understood that if she brought foreign money into the movement at any junction, it would eventually be the very means that killed it. David Garrison, well-known for his descriptive book on Church Planting Movements (CPMs), wrote:
One of the surest ways to cripple a Church Planting Movement is to link church reproduction to foreign resources. Whenever pastors look beyond their own membership and local resources for salaries or buildings, they bleed the life out of their movement.1

Garrison doesn’t say that foreign resources might cripple a movement, but rather that it is the surest way to cripple a movement.

Why is the Injection of Foreign Funding So Crippling?

Why does the injection of foreign funding bleed the life out of indigenous movements? First, the moment we bring in foreign funds to help at any stage of a locally rooted movement is the very moment that we introduce non-reproducibility and non-scalability into the movement. From that point on, those in the movement will become dependent on outside funds and will stop looking to mobilize those within the movement to support and sustain those aspects. Second, we will fulfill the perception and complaint of the non-believing persons among the Unreached People Groups that foreign money and power are always behind everything to do with Jesus. Third, on the heels of foreign money is always some degree of foreign culture. Even if donors merely enforce accountability measures for the funds, it will inevitably match their systems of reporting, accounting, and appealing to donors. What is more, the recipients will tend to adapt to their donors more so than to their own context and colleagues. Fourth, money that comes from outside instead of from inside the harvest is harmful to the recipients’ selfhood, community-image, motivation, determination, unity, self-giving and so much more.

Why Do We Feel a Need to Inject Foreign Money to Start, Sustain, and Speed Up Movements?

We have been warned and exhorted by people like Garrison that foreign funding can cripple and bleed the life out of movements. So why do we feel a need to inject foreign money into locally rooted movements? I can think of three big reasons why I unwisely used outside funds or was tempted to use outside funds.

First, as an American I am driven like so many others. My culture has taught me that moving things along through my own ingenuity, prowess and weight is worthwhile—even though I continually say that movements are “a move of the Spirit” working through the local people. There were times I wanted to see more progress and thought, “Ah, if they only had this or that, things would move faster and they wouldn’t struggle so much.” But every time I moved things along with outside resources, I broke the very rules and rhythms of movements such as simplicity, transferability, local resources, lay leadership, volunteerism and extraordinary prayer.
Honestly, sometimes I think our drive to outrun our statistics leads to this sense that we have to artificially inseminate indigenous movements with foreign funding. We have all seen the websites where the numbers increase as we increase our efforts. Might this driven nature of ours actually make us take shortcuts?

Second, I often felt compassion towards peoples’ plights. I could see that something was hard for them in regard to making disciples or their own family situation. I just wanted to make life and ministry easier for them. Have you watched the Sheep Among Wolves Volume II documentary? It seems that the Iranian Jesus-followers wouldn’t think of having foreigners lighten their load. Suffering has a way of fueling their movement. I fell into the trap of buying two motorcycles for a team of church-planters to share and to use at will because I wanted to make their efforts easier. But this outside intervention made the emerging movement dependent on outside help as everyone on down the generations of multi-plication knew where the motorcycles came from and expected the same when it was their turn—there is no such thing as confidentiality in many cultures.

Third, I was tempted to use funds to accommodate my needs. There was that occasional time that it would be easier to offer a training on CPM or DMM in a centralized location, rather than train in micro-locations where local people didn’t have to travel. You know the drill—save time in my busy schedule and my back from the grueling travel along rugged roads. But in these centralized training cases, there are suddenly costs involved for lodging, food and transportation. Then comes the inevitable question, “Jean, will you subsidize the training?” With this price tag comes modeling without the possibility of reproducibility.

In general, movements tend to start out as grassroots, organic, non-institutional and non-hierarchal structures. But as these movements grow, we desire to track, network and develop leaders and leadership for the movements. It is often at this stage that we want to relax the reproducibility and self-sustaining principles. Outside funding begins to pour in to support top movement leaders. These leaders will spend time in other countries raising funds to support themselves and their movements.

Another reason we desire to get overly involved is that we are used to and we like leading the pack. If we provide funds, we somehow become integral to the movements in other peoples’ countries. It feeds our need to be the pioneers, the frontrunners, the needed and the indispensible. What is often labeled as partnership is really sponsorship, which has no degree of reciprocity built into it—it’s just the wealthy serving in patron roles of the relationships. J. R. Meydan and Ramsay Harris have revealed that the Muslim world has a disproportionately large number of Christian donors seeking partnership in relationship to a disproportionately tiny number of recipients, which means that foreign money can’t help but cause crippling effects.2

I have seen organizations that center their vision and mission around partnering with local leaders in least reached areas of the world to help develop DMMs and CPMs, all the while raising millions of dollars. I know of one group that was lamenting about another group that was coming to their area. They were afraid their Western-funded movement models would undermine all their hard work in developing movements that were self-sustaining and self-supporting.

Yes, But . . .

You may conclude that minuscule help is not a big deal in the larger scheme of things. Dmmsfrontiermissions. com posted a blog about how members of a short-term missions team gave their boots to new disciple-makers in Bangladesh because they were originally wearing flip flops through monsoon-flooded areas as they visited villages to share the gospel. The visiting team thought this small act of love would be a great blessing but their gift of boots had the opposite effect. The newer disciples of this movement stopped going out and about to share the gospel or find Persons of Peace. They reckoned that only people who owned boots should do that type of ministry.3

One other area that messes us up is the deduction that social-economic help and projects used to gain favor ‘get a pass’ from being reproducible. But how can this be? If we use non-reproducible compassion services to enter an area and to gain approval, how will the ordinary believers of the second, third, and fourth generation work their way into new areas? I remember the day I helped a church-planter start a business to support himself. He retrieved water from a source and brought it to the village in a truck. Those who paid for his services had the water poured into their cisterns. This livelihood that was supposed to help him to support himself and readily relate to his neighbors actually backfired. His neighbors were jealous that he received a fair equity loan that wasn’t available to them. They also concluded that he was a believer in Jesus merely because of the help he received, which weakened his credibility.

Let’s Make the Most of It

It is really amazing to think what we could do to reverse misperceptions among the Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus by not funding locally rooted movements.


All Buddhists we interviewed expressed the view that there were foreign funds in the attempt to convert Buddhists to Christianity. Therefore, evangelical expansion in the country has been classified as “unethical conversion.” In this way, Buddhist activists have brought the issue to the realm of public debate and have created a Buddhist public hostility to Christianity in general.”4


Muslims assume that the principal methods Christian missionaries intentionally use to lure Muslims away from Islam and into Western Christian culture is by buying them off with gifts and money . . .5


Foreign funding contributes to India’s significant resistance to Jesus, even when given to “reach India.” Hindus are deeply aware of this foreign funding . . . Because of the incredible amounts of money involved, Hindus also use a metaphor of the “Christian enterprise” as missionary or conversion business.6

You see?! We finally have some methods among our global mission realm that have built within its DNA a way to reverse these Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu barriers to Jesus—DMMs and CPMs that are meant
to function with “less is more.” The surest way to empower movements is to encourage the people of these movements to look to their own people and resources for their needs. Let’s make the most of these best practice movement models that we have in our mission toolbox.

We Need to Believe

We need to believe in God enough to trust Him with these movements around the world.

We need to believe in the people of these movements enough to trust them with the development of their own movements. We need to believe in the DMM and CPM principles and practices enough to let them work.

I would love to talk more with you about this. I wish we talked about this elephant in the room more often. I wish people who have stifled or killed movements because of injecting outside funding would write about it. We need to hear these types of stories too; otherwise, we keep making the same mistakes.

I conclude with this final thought. The greatest missionary ever, the apostle Paul, did not become a donor or financial sponsor of the churches he started. He expected them to be reproducible and locally sustainable. Let’s follow in his footsteps.


  1. 1 David Garrison, Church Planting Movements: How God Is Redeeming A Lost World (WIGTake Resources LLC; 6th Printing edition, 2004).

  2. 2 J. R. Meydan and Ramsay Harris, “Are We Nourishing or Choking Young Plants with Funds,” From Seed to Fruit, ed. J. Dudley Woodberry (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2011), 226.

  3. 3, “Money — It Both Helps and Hurts,” June 10, 2017.

  4. 4 G. P. V. Somaratna, “Buddhist Perceptions for the Christian Use of Funds in Sri Lanka,” Complexities of Money and Missions in Asia, ed. Paul De Neui (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2012), 8.

  5. 5 J. R. Meydan and Ramsay Harris, “Are We Nourishing or Choking Young Plants with Funds,” From Seed to Fruit, ed. J. Dudley Woodberry (Pasa- dena, CA: William Carey Library, 2011), 226.

  6. 6 Paul Pennington, Christian Barriers to Jesus (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2017) 184-186.

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Movement Killers

Movement Killers

For the last 20 years “movement thinking” has gained attention in the missional world. Whether you call it Church Planting Movements or Disciple Making Movements or Exponential Discipleship, it’s undeniable that we are witnessing the book of Acts unfolding afresh with 3000 coming to faith in one day, 8000 in one week, 20,000 in just a few weeks. Movements are happening everywhere and if God is doing it in one place, it probably means He wants it to happen in all places!

I am a DMM Catalyst and often I am contacted by folks who ask me, “Would you show us how to make a movement happen?” It’s almost like people think I have a bag of secrets and all I have to do is put my hand into the bag and pull one out and give it to them and then a movement will take place. I always answer, “No man or woman can make a movement happen. Only God can cause a movement to happen. But when God is on the move, we can sure get in His way! Unknowingly we can thwart or slow down what God is doing.

These are called “movement killers.” Here are five movement killers that we have recognized in recent years.


When something we’re doing is proving successful, the word gets out and it becomes popular and everyone wants to get on the bandwagon. Then innovation begins to stall because we’ve started focusing on things in the past or trying to “package” something for the general public. It seems like movements continue longer when they are kept a secret so we try to keep them under wraps until they are quite obvious.

In the last few years Disciple Making Movements have become quite popular in the region where I live and serve. Books have been published, seminars conducted, and it’s been marketed as the new way to grow a church! A lot of attention has been given to one element of DMM—the Discovery Bible Study. A number of churches have plateaued in their growth, so when they hear about Discovery Bible Study they grab hold of it and turn all of their cell groups into DBS groups. They succeed in turning their church into a “Discipleship Church.” However, the end goal of not-yet believers coming into faith as part of a movement is never realized.


There are times when a spark of something very “contextual” begins and starts taking off, but when news of this reaches influential traditional church leaders they condemn it as heretical because it is not under their power or control. That criticism makes emerging leaders in a new movement question what they are doing.

In one fairly isolated rural area, a movement developed with hundreds of local people coming to faith. One of their emerging indigenous leaders suggested that as they showed their allegiance to Jesus in baptism that each person should carry a piece of firewood down to the river. They would make a big fire at the side of the riverbank and each baptismal candidate would lay a piece of wood into the fire stating, “This is my sin to be burned up to ash and the wind to take it away never to be seen by me again.” Then they would go down into the water and be baptized. It was a demonstrative way that they all would “feel” how their sins were forgiven by Jesus’ sacrifice. News of what they were doing traveled to a nearby area where a church had been in existence for over 10 years. When the leaders of that church heard this news they were upset. They traveled for two days to get to this location where the movement was happening to tell everyone to stop. They said, “We received the Good News about Jesus before all of you so you must do this the same way we do it.

This wood burning stuff is not of God and must stop.” For a period of time, it did stop. But when these leaders returned to their region, the local emerging movement leaders started up again! So even though the movement slowed down, it didn’t completely stop.


This is really connected with the previous movement killer. Despite criticism and even some faltering first moves, these emerging leaders can still make it if they have someone backing them up in a spiritual parenting role. This is huge. There are no movements without spiritual parenting. I am a product of the Jesus People Movement in California some 50 years ago. It was during that hippie era when God really got ahold of my life. It was very messy and seemingly out of control. People were coming to faith rapidly but people were falling pretty fast, too. There was only one mature leader named Pastor Chuck Smith. He raised up leaders from the harvest—young people coming out of bad backgrounds—and put them into leadership positions only to see them fall. But Pastor Smith had a “father’s heart” and would pick the fallen back up and say, “I believe in you. You can do it.” That was the engine behind the Jesus People Movement. Movements are messy and they must have spiritual parents to succeed.


This is a tightrope that we always have to be walking. But the bottom line is this: if a movement isn’t happening without money, then it won’t happen with money. Whatever kind of assistance is needed, the timing and the people involved should always be determined by those in the middle of movements on the ground. When this type of information is offered from the outside then movements begin to stall.

A bottom-line value of movements that I’m associated with is this: no financial proposals are allowed. We take Luke 10 and Matthew 10 quite literally—the person inviting you into their house or oikos should provide shelter and food for you—so the not-yet believers are the ones subsidizing movements! Why would they do that? Because they see the added value your presence makes among them. All ministry in movements is holistic and brings the kingdom of God to earth in practical ways that people see and want to get behind. People on the ground know where funds are most needed and how to get the assistance to where it’s needed without outside organizations insisting on foreign procedures.

A growing movement was beginning to gain attention from the local government because many street children were turning their lives around through the multiplying of restorative discovery groups over a large urban area. The government then gave a financial gift so the leaders of this movement could build a building and have a place to conduct their activities. The leaders received the funds from the government and then got together for a meeting to decide how to proceed. They were in a dilemma. They asked, “If we build a building, does that sends the wrong message to all the young people we serve? We are about building lives and not buildings. We must give the money back to the government.” They returned the funds back to the local government who was shocked and said, “This has never happened before! No one ever gives back money we give to them. These funds are from last year’s budget so it’s too late to return them to us.” The movement leaders asked, “Could we use the funds to build a medical clinic for the poor instead?” The government officials thought about the request and finally agreed. A medical clinic serving 200 people every day is now functioning because of appropriate funding and many people are finding faith through these medical services.


In a healthy movement, leaders are being created at all levels all the time. However, when some experienced and gifted leaders stay in positions for too long then movements will stall. We’ve actually started creating time limits for leaders and an age limit in our youth movement. Leaders can’t be over 25 years old!

For the past number of years, we’ve been seeing a youth movement happen in the region where I live and work. Some people say movements have to be based on the nuclear family in homes, and ideally that is true. That’s why in rural areas where movements are recorded, the Good News about Jesus travels through the relationships of family members. But the reality in urban areas around the world is different. When people migrate to urban cities their families come under lots of pressure. Urban lifestyle pulls husbands and wives apart and it also pulls parents from children. In these urban centers, young people look for community among their peers instead of their nuclear family so the Good News travels through these peer communities. We have many different types of movements: hip-hop movements, punk movements, sports movements, motorcycle gang movements and more and they all produce their own leaders.

Recently, when I was speaking in a church in South Korea, I noticed that the number of young people in attendance was very low. I offered the advice to the leaders to start a hip-hop ministry with young people, but they did not receive my advice very well. They responded, “You can’t gyrate your body and spin on your head like that in church!” I replied, “If you don’t then you will lose a whole generation.” I went on to explain how South Korea was number one in the hip-hop world and that would have more influence on young people than anything else in their country.

A year ago I gathered with 20 of my top leaders from our youth movement, both guys and gals age 17 to 25. All were highly involved in hip-hop, rap and DJ lifestyles. I asked them, “How many of you when you were still a child growing up at home had both parents with you? Raise your hand.” No one raised their hand. Then I asked, “How many of you had one parent around when you were younger?” Seven of them raised their hands. Finally I asked, “How many of you had neither a mom nor a dad at home when you were growing up?” 13 raised their hands. This is normal today for this generation. They are finding their way to a new way of doing church and seeing movement happen among them and a key is always reproducing leaders. It was at this meeting that they told me the current leaders must “pension” at 25 years of age to make room for the next generation of leaders.

If we want to see movements grow and spread to all peoples, we need to identify and eliminate all of those mission practices that kill movements

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Essential Qualities of a Multiplication Movement

Essential Qualities of a Multiplication Movement

Among the items displayed in the old Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago was a checkerboard with a single grain of rice on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, then 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, and so on. Somewhere down the board, there was enough rice that it was spilling over into neighboring squares, so the display ended there. Above the demonstration was the question: At this rate of doubling each square, how much rice would you have on the checkerboard by the time you reached the sixty-fourth square?

To find the answer, you punched a button and the answer flashed on a screen above the board: Enough to cover the entire subcontinent of India, fifty feet deep. There would be 153 billion tons of rice—more than the world rice harvest for the next one thousand years. Walter Henrichsen, in his book A Disciple is Made Not Born, described this scene to illustrate the potent power of multiplication. He went on to conclude, “The reason that the Church of Jesus Christ finds it so hard to stay on top of the Great Commission is that the population of the world is multiplying while the Church is merely adding. Addition can never keep pace with multiplication.”1  This is absolutely, unforgivingly true.

A paradox with our programs

I believe that the power of a multiplication movement is within every one of us who choose to follow Christ, no matter the age, gender, race or status. The Good News of Christ living within you is a power that can and should transform us, and eventually the world. It is both potent and viral.

There is, however, a paradox within much of current church methodology that must be explained. Our methods are ineffective for producing the spiritual results that only the gospel can do, but they can be potent at preventing spiritual fruitfulness. Our programs are powerless to produce movements, but powerful at preventing them. That is the paradox.

If the potential of a gospel movement is already present in each of us, it is not so much that we need to figure out how to make it happen, but instead to stop doing whatever is preventing it from happening.

In other words, it isn’t that we lack models, funding, strategy, leadership, training or doctrine. By investing so much confidence in those things instead of in the gospel itself, we are unintentionally choking any movement. Could it be that we are holding back a real movement while all the time searching for one? I believe this is true, and it is killing us.

Our mission is to release the power of the gospel from one life to another in such a way that it multiplies and spreads like a virus from our neighborhoods to the nations. I believe it takes much more effort to prevent multiplication movements than to see them happen. It is harder to not multiply than it is to multiply. This is counterintuitive, but true nonetheless. The gospel should spread naturally and powerfully without our help— and leave in its wake transforming agents of the kingdom. I don’t for a minute believe that the gospel itself is deficient, so I must simply acknowledge that our faith is misplaced.

Because addition may produce faster results in the beginning and multiplication takes time, we are often content with growth by addition. We choose the more immediate success and gratification of addition instead of waiting for the momentum that can build with multiplying. Don’t be content with addition. Stop applauding the pathetic success we see in addition and start longing for the incredible power of multiplication. This would mean, in practical terms, to not look for immediate or large results in the early days. Christian leaders would need to invest in the few rather than in the multitudes, much like Jesus did. Authority would be distributed and decentralized. Growth would need to come from each disciple rather than from a single leader or strong personality. As leaders, we would need to think of ways to equip people to serve rather than simply serving people.

We cannot simply tack on multiplication strategies to our current addition practices, because each set has completely different requirements. Addition is accumulative and draws people in. Multiplication isdistributive and sends people out. The objectives and means of accomplishing each are contrary to the other. You cannot do them both at the same time, any more than you can suck in water through a straw and blow bubbles in the glass at the same time. We must stop adding if we want to start multiplying. Could it be that our commitment to strategies that cannot multiply is in fact what is keeping us from seeing a movement here in the West?

Eight essential qualities of a real multiplication movement

Every one of these qualities is necessary if we are to see real multiplication. None can be violated and still result in a multiplication movement.

Most of these principles are counterintuitive but reveal how true multiplication movements work.

1. Slow and small wins the race

Multiplication by doubling begins slower than addition, but like a car rolling down a steep hill, it builds up momentum as it goes. A penny doubled, then doubled again can become millions, and then billions, and within a short time, trillions. In fact, you go from billions to trillions just as fast as you went from millions to billions. This is phenomenal.

This first principle is one of the hardest for missionaries and church-planters to grasp because it counters all their intuition and plans. The vast majority of church planters sent out long to grow large fast. Launching large is seen as the most viable way to success for the church-planter these days. Church-planting agencies are actually guilty of stopping any multiplication before it can start because, as I will explain, movements are most vulnerable to being stopped at the very beginning. Church-planter salaries frequently are set up so that they decrease significantly each year, hoping that will provide motivation for them to launch big enough to make up the difference through the offerings collected in the new worship service. A church-planter is forced to launch larger in the beginning just to support his or her family. A gathering of people in a worship

service that can contribute tithes and offerings has become the main objective for a church-planter. This takes precedence over reproducing disciples or bringing life and change to a community. Our systems are designed to prevent multiplication from the very start. These same systems also work overtime to make one leader key to the whole enterprise and limit church to what happens on Sunday morning between the hours of 10 o’clock and noon.




We simply must respect the long runway necessary for this movement to take off. We should allow this long, slow start to be part of the plan and expect it. Instead, when we hit the long, slow start, we lose patience, feel like we are failing and resort to addition practices. When we shift from multiplication to addition, we disrupt the natural flow of momentum that would eventually overtake all else. We may feel more successful in the early days with addition, but we forfeit the ideal results that come through multiplication.

Patience is not just a virtue in multiplication—it’s a necessity. Just as a farmer cannot quicken the growth of his crops, the church-planter who wants multiplication results must be willing to wait. “The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (James 5:7-8). Paul said that we will reap what we have sown in due time—if we do not give up. (Gal. 6:7-9)

Steven Covey asked, “Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm—to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest?” He went on, “The farm is a natural system. The price must be paid and the process followed. You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut.”2 There are seasons. We must “be ready in season and out” and not rush the process.

The Bible is not silent on this. Do not “despise these small beginnings.” (Zech. 4:10 NLT) A tiny mustard seed of faith is all that is needed to move mountains. (Matt. 17:20) A pinch of leaven is all that is needed to leaven the whole lump. (Gal. 5:9) Every person that is changed by Jesus can be a carrier of the movement, and multiplication starts there. This leads us to the next essential principle of multiplication.

2. Each one reach one

Some argue that multiplication requires addition, and that is true. We cannot multiply without addition, but we certainly can add without multiplying. Multiplication in the kingdom sense of the word only works if each one that is added, adds another, then another. This highlights the big difference between addition and multiplication. The difference is seen in the multiple generations.

In multiplication, each person is equally important to the process, so there isn’t an outstanding personality that can produce more of it than everyone else.3 Everyone gets to play in a multiplication movement—that is the only way to have one.

How we start will determine how we finish. Once our entire system is set up to only add, multiplying becomes impossible. In a multiplication movement, each one must reach one, again and again, for many generations. Only when everyone is empowered and each generation is being discipled and reproducing disciples can a multiplication movement happen.

Everyone is the hero of a multiplication movement, and no single person stands out as the sole leader. Perhaps this is because in a real Jesus movement, Jesus gets the attention and affection of those involved rather than any human leader.

3. Break the Gen-4 barrier

I believe the proof of multiplication is found in the fourth generation. 2 Timothy 2:2 is the key verse about multiplying disciples in the New Testament.

And the things you [Timothy] have heard me [Paul] say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people [third generation] who will also be qualified to teach others [fourth generation and beyond]. (2 Tim. 2:2 NIV)

In this verse we see four generations of reproduction: Paul, Timothy, reliable people and others also. “Others also” represent more than just a fourth generation—that phrase includes every generation thereafter. Once we pass the fourth generation, the momentum kicks in and succeeding generations don’t just become possible, but probable.

A strong leader will attract other leaders, who, because they are leaders, will have followers. In that sense, we can have three generations via addition. But to see the fourth generation, we must be doing things differently—we must be giving it all away to get through the barrier between addition and multiplication. We should hold this marker up as our scorecard of success more than the numbers that are in attendance. Once we break through the Gen-4 barrier, multiplication has a momentum of its own. It is also beyond anyone’s control. What can possibly spread from one life to another past these four generations? That question leads us to the next essential principle of multiplication.

3. The gospel glue

In his seminal book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell introduced an idea that was so descriptive and helpful that it “stuck” with me. He called it the “stickiness factor.” His terminology became sticky itself as more people began to use the phrase.4

The stickiness factor has to do with the memorable quality of the idea, product or method that is spread in a movement. When the idea is so intriguing that it sticks with people enough that they can’t forget about it—a movement can happen. This is (pardon the pun) the glue that makes a movement come together. You can sell products, ideas and even ministries with advertising and mass media promotion, but that is not a movement. To ignite a true movement, the idea itself must spread from one person to another—and only sticky ideas can do that.

I believe that anything less than a Jesus movement—where lives are changed by the good news of Jesus and that transformation spreads to others—is not worthy of His name. When someone is transformed from the inside out by the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Jesus, that person cannot help but tell others. That is stickiness unlike any other.

Jesus is more than any brand of church or ministry. We would be surprised what people will do for Jesus that they will not do for our church vision statement and brand. Frankly, if the gospel doesn’t drastically change lives, what is the point of church? It’s better to just eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we all die. But I do believe the gospel is a spark that can ignite a fast-spreading wildfire that cannot be put out by man, demon, or even Satan himself. I believe that Jesus changes lives—He changed mine—so I will spread that news for the rest of my days.

Christ in us is the hope of glory. That is the stickiness of the gospel. This hope expressed through us in our changed lives is the contagion of the gospel. Anything else is less than a kingdom movement. This, in and of itself, is something worth giving our lives to—and giving our lives for.

The contagion, however, needs to spread from one life to another, which brings us to the next principle necessary for a multiplication movement. It doesn’t matter how sticky our message is if we don’t have the tracks for the movement to roll forward on and expand.

5. Multiplication runs on relationships

The gospel spreads best on the tracks of relationships. A quick survey of any Christian audience will bear this truth out. Ask how many people came to Christ anonymously, and one or two people in the crowd will raise their hands. All the others will raise their hands when asked how many came to Christ through an important relationship with a trusted friend or family member.

This is the design of God. We are made to be in relationship, and that is the context for lives to change. The term used in the Gospels to describe this is the word oikos, most often translated as “household” (referring to a set of familial relationships). Jesus’ instructions were to enter into a household with the gospel and stay there, letting the gospel spread from one relationship to another. Jesus instructed the apostles—and us—about extending the gospel of the kingdom with the following words:

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

Five times in the above verses, Jesus used the word oikos (household), emphasizing that relationships are the key to gospel extension. In fact, He goes so far as to instruct us to not greet people with our message (gospel) of peace (shalom) on the way (Luke 10:4). In other words, don’t evangelize void of the context of real, authentic, and vulnerable relationships. Why? He wants more than simply adding converts to the membership rolls in heaven. He wants nothing less than a radically multiplying, life-changing movement of the gospel.

I want to point out that the last command from Jesus in the passage above is in the imperative voice: “Do not move around from house to house.” Wait, uh, what? Yeah, He commands us to not go to the next household. Doesn’t Jesus want the gospel to spread from house to house? Yes, He does, but He doesn’t want you to do it all. He wants it to spread from one satisfied, saved and sanctified “recipient” to the next. He wants a true movement. Relationships have always been the tracks that the gospel is meant to move forward on.

For a locomotive to work, you need at least three components:

  1. The locomotive
  2. The tracks for it to run on
  3. The energy to make it move

In a similar way, we need three parts to see a multiplication movement spread:

  1. The message of the gospel (locomotive)
  2. Connective relationships with hurting people who need the message (tracks)
  3. Lives that have been changed by the power of the gospel (energy pushing the movement forward)

We are too often lacking one or more of these elements and so miss all chances of a multiplication movement. We may believe that the gospel is salvation in Christ by grace through faith alone—but then we act as though it is our own effort and good works that make a difference. And then we have something less than a train. If we are only moral people—“cultural Christians”—rather than true, vibrant carriers of the gospel, then we lack any energy to propel the movement. But the middle element is also frequently missing. Most Christians have good relationships with other Christians but do not have strong connections with those who need the gospel most. We have no tracks for the movement to run forward on. A train full of steam without tracks to run on is utterly useless.

Once someone is a Christian for longer than six months, most of their meaningful relationships are with other Christians. And their connections and friendships with people in the lost and broken world are cold and dead. If the gospel of the kingdom spreads along the lines of an oikos connection and their entire oikos is already Christian, then any potential movement is derailed.

I often say, “If we want to win this world to Christ, we’re going to have to sit in the smoking section.” We simply must create avenues for the gospel to flow from relationship to relationship.



Even in the best of circumstances, this barricade to movements exists simply because a new life in Christ will be attracted to a spiritual family of like-minded people. Christ-followers, by divine design, long to be in fellowship with other followers of Christ. It is an internal and natural intent, which means that for most people, the days soonest after their rebirth may be their most productive for extending the movement from oikos to oikos. As time passes, it is less natural and more challenging to bridge into an oikos that needs the gospel.

Believing that a new spiritual life is too fragile to carry the gospel contagion and withstand the temptations of the world, we intentionally erect a barrier when people come to Christ. We extract them from meaningful relational opportunities and encourage them to solely connect with other believers. This is, once again, misplaced faith that actually puts more confidence in the power of darkness than light. No matter what we say, we demonstrate by our actions that we believe our own methods and practices are better at protecting a new believer than the gospel, so we do all we can to protect them. We end up only protecting the unsuspecting world from the power of the gospel.

Not only is a new follower of Christ capable of withstanding the temptations of the old life, he or she is often better suited to make a difference than an older and more mature brother or sister. Why? The fresh relationship lines connect the changing life to those who are in most need of it. The tangible realities of the gospel transformation are most noticeable to these not-yet-believers because they watch their friend change right before their eyes.

Perhaps the most embarrassing truth about this misinformed practice of withdrawing a new convert from his old relationships in an attempt to strengthen the new believer is that in doing this, we actually slow the growth and maturity of the new disciple. Nothing will accelerate a follower of Christ’s spiritual development like telling others the good news. In fact, the more hostile the audience, the more the new believer will grow spiritually as they defend the gospel and practice obedience against hostility. Strength is best developed against resistance.

By “protecting” the new believer from the temptations of their old life and friends’ lifestyle, we unintentionally collude with the enemy in stopping movements before they happen. We stunt the growth and development of the new disciple as well.

The core truth of the gospel is love. Love is impossible void of relationships. Relationships with those who most need such love is key to the advancement of movements.

6. Multiplication movements are most vulnerable at the beginning

To better understand the momentum behind multi-plication movements, imagine a car without gasoline on top of a steep hill. Gasoline is not important in such a case because gravity itself can propel the vehicle. But the ground is almost flat at the top of the hill. Gravity is not tugging at the car immediately. We could simply stand in front of the two-ton car with our hand on the hood and hold it in place. Why? There is no energy behind the car—yet.

This reveals a very important principle for us: movements are most vulnerable at the start. Once the car starts rolling down the hill, its energy increases, and the car moves faster with every inch. Gravity does its work. The acceleration increases rapidly as the car rolls further down the hill. Standing in front of the car and placing your hand on the hood when it is halfway down the steep hill will not slow the car at all—and will probably leave a grease spot on the road.

Movements are much harder to stop once the momentum kicks in, but before that, movements can be easily derailed. As I stated firmly, the power of movements is found within every Christ-follower. Since this is true, then why do we not see more movements? This principle answers that question. The movements we could potentially see are stopped before they ever get started.

I contend that the very way we practice our faith and live in community works against multiplication movements. We create dependency on expert leaders from the very start. We frequently cut off the potential power and connection of every new Christ-follower at the very start. We make church bound to a physical address and a weekly schedule. All of these things work together to curtail movements right at the start. How we start will determine how we finish. If we want the rapid exponential growth curve at the end, we must lay the groundwork for it in the beginning.

7. Multiplication is simple and significant

As an art student in university, I learned a valuable lesson that I have integrated into all I do: Less is more. The best things are simple things.

We are often tempted to disregard simple things, believing them to be simplistic. A simple thing, however, can be very profound. In fact, I believe that simplicity can be a step beyond complexity. What is easy is often simple, but simple is not always easy. It takes great skill and effort to make something simple. It is easy to create something that is complex; we just keep adding “stuff” to it. To design something that is both simple and profound, however, is a creative challenge.

Simple is transferable, while complex breaks down. Three of the most feared words in a parent’s vocabulary are, “Some assembly required.” Inevitably, the more complicated toys break almost immediately. One Christmas I brought home a large box for my five-year-old daughter. The box contained an entire house—a child’s toy playhouse. I opened the box with trepidation, but the first thing I noticed was that there were no small parts, nuts, or bolts—just the large heavy-duty plastic pieces. I then opened the instructions that were surprisingly simple. They were simple diagrams without words in any language.

I looked for a list of the tools I would need to construct this house, but there was no such list. This was a wonderful toy. The house was put together like a huge three-dimensional puzzle in which all the pieces snap together. Simple. That toy lasted years after our three childrens’ interest in it did. The designers who engineered that toy impressed me. They understood children and their parents and created something that was simple, enjoyable and virtually indestructible.

When we approach disciple-making with the desire to pass the baton on to succeeding generations, we must refine the process so that it is simple and transferable. Simplicity is the key to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation. If the process is complex, it will break down early in the transfer to the next generation of disciples. The more complex the process is, the greater the giftedness needed to keep it going.

Paul passed on to Timothy truths so profound that he would not forget them. They gripped his life and never left him. But the things Paul passed on were simple enough that Timothy could in turn pass them on to others who could then pass them on to more. The gospel itself is the most profound truth mankind has ever received, yet it is simple enough for a child to understand and pass on to others.

Perhaps the reason that we don’t see multiplication of disciples more often is that we are trying to do too much too soon in the process. We fail to grasp the fact that discipleship– following Christ in simple obedience—is a lifelong pursuit. By attempting to teach our disciples so much in the first year, we unintentionally sabotage the years to follow. We intimidate them into thinking disciple-making is too hard for common people to do and requires memorization of volumes of information. We tend to overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in three. A helpful idea is for us to see disciple-making and multiplying as distinct from the process of mentoring leaders. All Christians are to be disciple-makers, even those who are not yet leaders.

When we try to combine discipleship with leadership development, we eliminate a good percentage of Christians from participation in the Great Commission. In reality, disciple-making is the foundation of good mentoring and leadership development. If we allow disciple-making to happen, unencumbered by complicated training methods, more people will be able to do it, and we will increase the pool to draw from for the purpose of mentoring leaders. Once we have growing and multiplying disciples, we can build upon their emerging fruitfulness with intentional mentoring and training methods for those who demonstrate leadership potential.

What we need is a disciple-making system that is practical and profound. It must be both simple and significant. A system that is significant enough to captivate the Christ-follower’s internal motivation yet simple enough that it can be easily passed on from disciple to disciple. Such a system will strengthen the Church and produce growth that is qualitative and quantitative.

We cannot easily pass on something complicated from one person to another and then another and so on. The more complex an idea is, the more people will think they are incapable of mastering it. As a result, they will not be empowered to tell others for fear of getting it wrong. A method that is complex is more likely to lose essential elements in the transfers of upcoming generations.

Simplicity, however, is not just about being able to pass something on. There is more to it. There is something powerful about the refining process that creates a simple and yet potent thing. It is not just what is excluded but about what we deem so significant that it must remain, that makes an idea potently simple. Ruthless and relentless prioritizing of an idea refines it.

This process of relentlessly prioritizing and pruning a concept solidifies it into something so important that it cannot be ignored. Seth Godin articulates this when he says, “The art of leadership is understanding what you can’t compromise on.”5 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, best known as the author of The Little Prince, once quipped, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”6

Reduction to the most essential and simple points is tricky but worth it. Albert Einstein compelled others to go as close to the edge as possible without letting the idea lose its potency. He said, “Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler.”

To take something valuable and reduce it to what makes it valued by eliminating anything that might compete with its significance—and leaving it there—is an incredibly important skill.

Sanity is knowing what to fight for. Insanity is fighting for anything. Cowardice is not fighting for anything. Some things are worth fighting for. Some things are even worth losing a fight over. A few things are worth dying for. I’m convinced that we are ready to lead when we are able to know the things that are worth dying for—and the things not worth fighting over. I believe we will find that after we have lived enough to know these things, more people will receive our message. Our authority increases as we realize this is what we know to be true, and all else becomes secondary.

8. Multiplication is easy and economical

Perhaps the most counterintuitive principle of them all is this: true multiplication is really easy. We are so accustomed to the hard work and sweat of doing ministry that we cannot believe such a thing, but it is true.

In a multiplication movement, everyone does the work, not just a few. The work is narrowed to focus on what is truly important and lesser distractions that cost so much energy are eliminated. All the effort is decentralized and shared. As each one reaches another, the work of the kingdom is spread to all and no longer rises and falls on a few leaders that do all the heavy lifting.

Jesus described the growth and work of His disciples with the following parable:

“The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)

When we all share the load, it becomes easy. In the parable, the farmer doesn’t even know how it works. The work grows all by itself. This is something we all can do, should do, and I believe we will do. We just need to stop doing all the other stuff that takes up too much time, too much effort, and too much money—and yields but a tiny fraction of the fruit.

Multiplication is also far less expensive. When the ministry is simplified to what is most powerful and transferable to all, then it suddenly costs next to nothing monetarily. As we often say in our movement, “It doesn’t cost a dime to make a disciple—it just costs your life.” Jesus paid the ultimate cost for His kingdom movement; it shouldn’t cost more than what He already paid.

Is it possible that we could catch up to the world population and keep up without spending a fortune and killing ourselves in stressful effort in the process? Yes. It is very simple and completely doable. We would only have to focus on doing the very thing Jesus commanded us to do—make disciples.

If we all simply made one disciple every year that could make another the following year, we would not only catch up and keep up—we’d finish up. But to do that we would have to stop doing a lot of things that set up a few people with power, position, and steady employment.

Virtually all of our “religious” systems are designed to keep power and productivity in the hands of a few professionals. This must change.


  1. 1. Walter A. Henrichsen, Disciples Are Made-Not Born: Making Disciples Out of Christians (Victor, 1985), p.143.

  2. 2. Steven R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, (Simon & Schuster 1989), p. 22.

  3. 3. That isn’t to say that a specific gift doesn’t produce more multiplication than others. The apostolic gift is given to the Church to lay a foundation of multiplication. Void of this gift, the Church can only grow via addition. Why? Because the apostolic gift distributes the power to be able to reproduce disciples to everyone. An apostolos (Greek for apostle) is a sent one and is the foundation for launching church movements. The sent one reproduces him/herself and sends.

  4. 4. Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick is influenced by Gladwell’s sticky terminology. Larry Osborne’s Sticky Church, Sticky Leaders and Sticky Teams all use Gladwell’s terminology.

  5. 5. Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (Penguin, 2008), p. 79.

  6. 6. Lewis Galantiere’s full translation of the first two paragraphs of the third chapter (The Tool) of Wind, Sand and Stars.

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Toward the Edges: Listening and Learning

Toward the Edges: Listening and Learning

One of the things I learned by being “on the ground” among unreached peoples is the value of listening and learning. To be fair, I learned it initially by my mistakes in not doing so very well!

Our current climate in the USA may go down as a case study in how not to listen and how not to press into difficult issues. I refer to tough issues like the questions about re-opening while trying to balance financial and physical health, government mandates and personal freedoms; and tough issues like how to respond to the Supreme Court ruling about employment and gender and sexuality; and tough issues like race. I am deeply troubled, not just by the issues themselves, but by our current culture of “how to disagree.” To be brief, we do it poorly.

How can we change? Listen to other voices.

I will focus on just one area of the tough things to learn to press into.

Protests and racial tension are bringing to the forefront for some of us what is always present and real for many others. One of the excellent pieces of advice I heard relative to being good listeners and learners in this season, is to broaden our sources of news and information, and listen to other voices. I am not a podcast guy, but I am a music guy. Music really is my go-to source.

Awhile back I dipped into rap. There is white rap, of course, but I was listening for black voices specifically when I came across an old favorite: Tracy Chapman. I listened to her whole first album (“Tracy Chapman”).

Ok, so it was 1988, but the words could have been written today. For context, in 1988 Ronald Reagan was in his final year as president (for more on the Reagan years and racial issues, check out the Netflix documentary “13th”).

But back to Tracy.

Apart from her musicianship and songwriting (amazing), I was moved by the scope of issues she addresses in one album. I like playlists as much as the next person, but some artists treat their albums as a whole. Tracy Chapman’s album is worth a full listen.

She deals with racism, domestic violence, hunger, poverty, co-dependency, misogyny, longing for authentic love and more. Maybe the only major issue she did not address was the environment (which she takes up in later work).

And her prophetic knife has more than one sharp side. Yes, I used the word prophetic, so before the maintenance light for heresy on your dashboard lights up, let me say this:

I believe prophetic words emerge from one source, but by several means. There is of course the means of direct inspiration. Then there is also the means by which a human being, standing in solidarity with other human beings, gets a glimpse of the image of God and speaks truthfully from that place. I think Tracy did that 32 years ago. But she could have sung those songs today. And in my heart, on a Sunday morning, she did.

The final song, which will lead to my final comment, is one called “For You”. I assume it is a love song, but I redirected it as worship. I used it for summing up all the prior 10 songs and their cries for justice and truth and reconciliation and directed them to the One I know who can cause a new kingdom to come among us...and may it be so.

 Finally, my main point here is actually not just about the specific issue of racism in our country. I am making a plea, really, to all of us to find new ways of disagreeing, and of learning. That is one of the ways that, for those of us in the mission movement, we can model and display what it means to learn well from the edges of mission!

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

How Disciple-Makers Relate to Ever-Present Global Disruptions

How Disciple-Makers Relate to Ever-Present Global Disruptions

The other day I was on a Zoom call with a group of Frontier Mission trainers. They were there from around the globe; Africans, Asians, Europeans, Americans and more. We prayed together, seeking God, and listening to His voice. We wanted to hear what He would say to us as Frontier Mission trainers at this time. I’m grateful to serve in a movement that places a high value on hearing God’s voice individually and corporately.

We shared Scripture. Then, we took the time to practice listening prayer. After a period of waiting, one of our trainers said, “I feel that the fires in Australia and the disruption of COVID-19 are just the beginning. We will experience many more disruptions. We need to be ready. We can’t let these stop us from obeying God’s mandate to make disciples.” I didn’t particularly like hearing this. Be ready for more disruptions? Hmmm. That didn’t sound good! What did that mean for me as a mission leader? How was I to be ready? Was there a way to get ready for more disruption and also get ready to bring in the harvest?

A few days after that meeting, in my home city of Minneapolis, violence erupted in our streets. Another unexpected disruption.

Only days before, cyclones hit South Asia, my home for many years, along with an unusual attack of locusts. Disruption on top of disruption.

These are not easy times to live and minister in. When disruption hits, it is hard to keep our heads above water and our eyes fixed on Jesus. The demand on ministers of the gospel has dramatically increased. Needy people knock on our doors and ring our phones. At times, we feel overwhelmed. While helping others, we experience a rollercoaster of our own emotions.

I take courage in knowing that while disruptions surprise me, they are not a surprise to God. He was not caught off guard by the coronavirus, nor anything else happening in the world nor my personal life. As I stay connected to Him, as I abide, He will show me how to live a fruitful life as a disciple-maker amid a continual disturbance of what I perceive as normal life.

When Disruption Gets Personal

Beyond the disruptions of the world, as we serve, there are personal challenges. For missionaries supported by churches and individuals, this may mean loss of income. Economies are struggling and joblessness is rising worldwide. When your financial support plummets, it hits home in a very tangible way.

Ten days after my colleague said she felt more disruptions were coming, she was diagnosed with cancer. That’s personal. This past month I’ve faced personal challenges as well. After hurting my back, I slipped and fell, twisting my leg and ankle beneath me. I also had tooth problems, and my assistant quit suddenly, during an ever-increasing workload as we opened enrollment for my online course: Getting Started in Disciple Making Movements: Even if You Are Busy, Can’t Speak the Language Well and Have No Money.

External disruptions are hard. Personal disruption and challenge even more so. Are these events spiritual attacks, the pruning process of God?

I am not a last days scholar or eschatologist. I don’t consider myself qualified to speak on those matters. As a DMM practitioner, I like to keep things simple. Though I enjoy in-depth Bible study, most of the time I take Scripture at face value.

 I have no clear idea about whether these are the last days. I do know that Scripture says in the last days we will experience increased times of difficulty. The Bible also speaks of a great harvest in the end times. The two go together. This understanding must inform how we respond, rather than reacting or ignoring the many disturbances that come our way.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. (2 Tim 3:1 ESV)

Three ways disciple-makers can relate to life’s disruptions:

1 We can react in fear.

Fear is pervasive and contagious. Conspiracy theories, “fake news” and rumors feed our fearful hearts and minds. Anxiety is a very human reaction. Like pain, fear can be a good thing. It protects us when danger lurks. Abiding or chronic fear, however, is never from God. Getting stuck in fear-mode is not a reaction disciples of Jesus can afford to give in to.

Fear paralyzes. It causes us to react in selfishness. We hoard food and toilet paper instead of being generous with those in need. We focus on the bad things that could happen, rather than seeing what God is doing around us.

The Psalmist said, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Ps. 61:2) When we feel fearful, we must turn to Him, our solid rock. Resist fear and it will flee from you. Give in to it, feed it, and it will grow.

As disciple-makers, a fear reaction says, “I can’t do anything until this is over. When the lockdown lifts, I’ll be able to disciple people and start new groups or churches again. When my health is better, I’ll share Jesus with my neighbors. After travel restrictions lift, I’ll start going to train disciples again.”

The problem with that position is we don’t know how long this disruption will last. Nor do we know what new disruption might follow. Courageous action is the opposite of fear. It’s what this season of difficulty asks of disciple-makers.

2. We can ignore disruptions, pretending they don’t exist.

Sometimes it is easier to stick your proverbial head in the sand. We don’t know how to respond, so we pretend nothing has changed. We ignore the disruption and hope in time it will disappear. In a few months, things will go back to normal, we think. Hunker down and stay safe, and in a while, things will be better.

This response is also not from God. Jesus told us to discern the times we are in. In Matthew 24, Jesus told His disciples that they could expect difficulties. Though it is not for us to know “the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority” (Acts 1:7), we cannot ignore world events. We must be watchful and aware of what is happening.

If we ignore disruptions, we miss the great opportunities they afford us for disciple-making. There is a great spiritual openness in the world today. People are open to having spiritual conversations like never before.

Governments, busy fighting Covid-19, are less focused on persecuting Christians. Dramatic changes have happened as millions have learned to access resources online.

Will we ignore this openness? This great opportunity to reach lost people and multiply disciples, if it requires us to change how we function?

Our models of what a movement looks like must shift to accommodate what is happening. Movements will cross borders differently. How we find Persons of Peace may change. Our primary method of going to these people may be through social media rather than knocking on doors or chatting in a shopping mall. House churches may predominantly meet on Zoom and through WhatsApp groups.

As I write that I cringe. I don’t want that! None of us do. But if that is what it takes to go and make disciples in this time, are we willing to shift and adjust our preferences?

We don’t like to think about this. It was not in our strategic plan for multiplication.

But what if all that happened is preparing us for a time when brick and mortar church buildings can no longer function due to persecution? Are we learning? Pivoting? Experimenting? Or simply wishing the disruption would end and we could go back to the way it was?

3. We can respond in faith.

As much as fear is contagious, faith and hope are even more so. When we abide in Christ and meditate on His Word, our hearts are filled with fresh confidence in God’s promises. These are incredible times to be alive and work as disciple-makers. Spiritual hunger is growing virally. With everything shaken, people are looking for a God who loves them and can provide comfort, hope and life.

By demonstrating genuine faith in these uncertain times, we reflect His glory. We shine as bright lights…and so we must!

Jesus said, “The harvest is ripe, the workers are few.” That has never been truer than it is today! “Look to the fields, they are white unto harvest,” said the Master. We must go in response to His call and the ripeness of the harvest fields. Whether that means going online, or to our neighbor while standing six feet apart or going through a phone call…we must go! Persons of Peace wait to be found. Rise to the challenge of these times and face them head on, your hand in His.

Let’s allow this time of disruption to strip us of old habits of disciple-making and church. Many things we did previously weren’t in line with New Testament practices anyway! Allow difficulties to prune both your ministry and your life. New growth and fruitfulness will result.

What does it mean to respond in faith? It means we prayerfully and actively go after the new wine and new wineskins Jesus is releasing. We embrace and step into them wholeheartedly. We allow God to use trials to bring lasting change in our lives as well as our ways of operating as disciple-makers.

The World Will Change

When in high school, I read the book 1984 by George Orwell. It was my junior year (class 11). I would graduate the next year in 1985. How strange to read a book written in 1949, forty years earlier, and see how closely it had predicted what our world was like. On many things, it was right on.

One thing Orwell got right was that the world was changing. Life was not going to stay the same. In that sense, he spoke prophetically.

What will the world be like in forty years? It would be foolish of me to venture a prediction. What I can say with confidence, is that it will not be the same as it is today. The world is changing and we must change with it.

A Future Hope

The future I hope for is one where the movements numbered across the globe have grown beyond our wildest dreams. Seeing organic movements to Christ has become normal. The majority of Christians have shifted from being only church members to embracing a lifestyle of disciple-making, sacrifice, love and obedience.

In that future, the Church looks different than it does today. It is far more similar to what we saw in the New Testament. Signs and wonders are common, and those that are daily being saved in every corner of the globe have become impossible to track. With this growth has come persecution and great suffering, but the body of Christ is stronger and more united than ever before. People from every tribe and tongue and nation gather to worship and love the one who died and rose again. Usually not in big gatherings— but under trees, in homes, in coffee shops, in chat rooms on the internet, on Zoom and WhatsApp, in hospital waiting rooms, in airports and train stations— they gather to worship, encourage and spur one another on to reach and serve the lost.

Let the disruptions come if that is what it takes to move us into a season of greater harvest, renewal, and disciple-making. Amid the chaos of today and tomorrow, we say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come. Let your kingdom come in me, my city, my region and among the unreached. Help me respond in faith to what You are doing. Let me cooperate with You and be an obedient disciple who follows You into the unknown future ahead. For Your glory. Amen.”

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

What Movement Leaders Teach Us about Equipping

24:14 Goal—Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (64 months)

What Movement Leaders Teach Us about Equipping

For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. – The Apostle Paul (1 Thess. 2:5-8)

I remember sitting under Steve Smith’s insightful training as we explored Scripture pathways I had trodden many times before. Somehow I had never seen the nuggets lying there in plain view. Jesus’ commissioning of 70 disciples to go places “He himself was about to go” captured my imagination as he challenged them to “pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:1-2) Steve asked us to imagine the scenario: disciples walking down dusty roads praying for more laborers for the harvest field. Then he asked us the pointed question, “If Jesus expected their prayers to be answered, where did He expect those laborers to come from?”

The golden answer burst into my mind. Of course! The laborers for the harvest field are in the harvest! If I would start treating them like God’s chosen and approved workmen instead of those to be “harvested,” I would see a different result than I had been seeing.

Over the last 25 years, we have seen the emergence of Church Planting Movements impacting areas of the planet we once thought impenetrable to missionary efforts. Many of these growing networks of disciples have emerged from a faithful outsider befriending, mentoring and empowering a passionate insider to reach his or her own people. The shift from a hierarchical view of missionary efforts to that of a humble trainer and coach has not been easy for many Westerners, but it has borne great fruit.

At a recent meeting exploring new models of missionary training, several national Disciple Making Movement leaders spoke about the posture of outsiders as they enter new unreached fields. Their insights can apply to any outsider entering a new harvest field. They can help us understand our role and provide a gentle corrective lens to enable us to see the gold in front of us.

I will summarize their insights in 10 recommendations:

Be an Example. Outsiders need “street credibility.” Making disciples and planting churches involves trials and suffering. These things create a depth in the outsider that insiders notice and feel. They appreciate the patience and humility that come with walking those paths. Modeling involves not just learning theology or tools. It’s a lifestyle of prayer, labor, perseverance, releasing responsibility and trusting God.

Be Relational. Locals can feel a difference when an outsider comes with a zeal for movement methods that outweighs love for people. Relationship precedes strategy. An overly transactional desire to get the job done grates on people in a relational culture. Movement leaders in our meetings marveled at how much Western outsiders talked about “boundaries” without considering the needs and perspectives of the local people they were holding at arm’s length. Additionally, local believers are not especially impressed by outsiders’ great tools and methods. They need to know, love and respect the person with whom they partner.

Working to become like family may feel slow, but it paves the best path to fruitfulness.

Be Humble. The world operates on a hierarchical framework. As a contrast, Jesus told us “not so among you.” (Mark 10:43) Don’t come in as a boss, but treat the insider leader as a friend. Empower them and release control (something many of us find difficult!). Knowing that control tends to kill movements, work to establish “a round table, not a rectangular one.” Listening well to others shows respect, love and care.

Experienced ministers feel honored when you take the time to understand their world, and work with them and through them (not for them, or them for you).

Be a Culture Learner. Local believers often puzzle over how culturally unaware outsiders are as they bring the gospel message to a new harvest field. We need to recognize that when we arrive as an outsider

we bring with us the fragrance of our home culture. This affects how we communicate, how we correct, the alliances we create, the biases we live with and the ways we get things done. Even the tools we bring in carry cultural baggage. Commit to learn the language and operate through the local culture, discovering with local people how to bring kingdom light that makes us all more like Jesus.

Be Patient. Movement leaders recounted how outsiders often arrive with their tools and methods and say: “I know this will work here because it has worked somewhere else.” A patient, relational approach allows for a period of settling in, where outsiders and insiders learn from one another under the direction of the Holy Spirit and trust can blossom. Patience on the part of the outsider demonstrates humility and a recognition that the cultural insider has much that they can contribute to help enculturate the principles behind fruitful tools.

Be a Prayer Leader. Outsiders need to lead out in prayer, though they may find that local people often do it better than they do. Outsiders do, however, have the ability to catalyze outside prayer networks in

strategic ways that can change realities on the ground. Connecting local believers with these prayer networks allows them access to a resource that may be hard for them to find without the connection through an outsider.

Be a Vision Caster and Catalyzer of Insiders. Movement leaders tell stories of outsiders who cast a vision for them to be the “laborers in the harvest” and dreamed with them about what is possible.

Outsiders can create a broad base of relationships and help various networks unify. We also heard movement leaders share how their connection with outsiders exposed them to a new vision to reach unreached people groups and connect to the 24:14 Vision for their region. Helping insiders connect to appropriate outside networks can also implant vision and catalyze new laborers.

Be a Mentor and Coach. Outsiders can play an important role as a life-on-life mentor. But movement leaders caution that transactional coaching strategies fall flat in relational cultures. What local leaders crave from their outside partners is time spent together exploring problems, with questions and cultural respect.

Be Dependent on the Word. Outsiders having a long history with God can help provide theological frameworks and dependency on God’s leadership through his word. A commitment to seek direction together from God and his word, and obey what it says, no matter what, models a reproducible life in God.

Be a Connector. An outsider will naturally be more trusted by other outsiders who have resources.  An outside catalyst who has developed relationships with inside leaders can be a bridge, connecting them with Bibles, tools, or help with trainings that can help start new works. Outside catalysts can help with data gathering and reporting that helps the movement relate to other movements and networks.

When we see what cross-cultural workers need in order to succeed, we begin to understand the type of laborer who can really serve effectively. So as we raise up next-generation movement catalysts, what should we learn? How can we improve our training processes to prepare workers for the harvest fields?

We need to heed the advice movement leaders have for us. One message most often repeated is that outside catalysts need to learn to walk in the Holy Spirit, not just implement tools. Prayerful, humble leadership characterizes a catalyst who can change lives. Training should focus on a dependent life in God.

Movement leaders would like to welcome outsiders who have already reproduced their life in others who do likewise. Real experience (not just theory) in generational, reproducing disciple-making allows catalysts to have credibility and mentor local leaders in reproducing their lives in others. Demonstrated skills in training and empowering others are crucial for reproduction. A catalyst cannot model just doing the work themselves. Training should focus on demonstrated competence instead of simply finishing a training course.

Training cross-cultural workers in relational skills and cultural humility can greatly accelerate the formation of outsider-insider partnerships. Learning cultural humility helps catalysts see cultural blind spots that could cause problems. These learned skills come with time and practice, but awareness of the problem can help.

Movement leaders appreciate good tools. They caution us, however, that tools often fail if they have not been culturally adapted. Understanding the principles of a movement tool is actually more important than the tool itself. The ability to adapt or recreate toolsets for new environments plays a vital role in reproducing kingdom movements. Thus, home-culture training needs to be more principle-centered and less tool-centered.

Trainees also need to realize the essential role of humble adaptation for cross-cultural success.

In addition to principle-centered tools, new movement catalysts should be equipped with a breadth of Scripture knowledge that can point insiders to God’s direction on any given issue. Outsiders with wide Scripture knowledge and an ability to act as a “Bible search engine” can help local leaders discover more of the Scripture themselves and develop obedience to God, inserting reproducing DNA into a new movement without creating dependency.

Movement leaders advise outsiders to come with a long-term plan that allows for patiently building relationships and learning language and culture. Don’t come with the expectation that massive reproduction of churches will happen immediately. Come with a plan to stay.

Outsiders need training in wise use of money and the potential problems outside funds can introduce.1 While money can kill movements, not all helping hurts. Catalysts need to be cautioned in how to work with the existing Christian community on the ground so they don’t poach workers or use money for control.

It would help for outsiders to have training in wise reporting practices that are culturally sensitive, technologically relevant, and don’t put undue burdens on the local leaders. Movement leaders understand that being connected to the wider global Christian community requires transparency in reporting God’s work and accountability for resources they receive from outside.

As we explore new models of training, understanding the best path to seeing God’s family expand cross- culturally requires taking a hard look at how we prepare people to become outside missional catalysts. Listening to movement leaders and understanding their experience with outside catalysts can help us frame new training models. We can learn from the successes and failures of those who have gone before.

  1. 1 Two helpful resources on this topic are When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Moody Publishers, 2014) and African Friends and Money Matters, Second Edition, by David E. Maranz (SIL International, 2016).
    1 Two helpful resources on this topic are When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Moody Publishers, 2014) and African Friends and Money Matters, Second Edition, by David E. Maranz (SIL International, 2016).

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

One Movement Adjusts to the Pandemic

One Movement Adjusts to the Pandemic

Like all of us, everywhere, the news and information and seriousness of the COVID-19 crisis emerged over time and for some faster than others. And it also emerged region by region and country by country throughout the world. In some places (as I write in April of 2020) there are still governments denying that the virus is an issue in their country.

In my roles as General Director of Frontier Ventures and President of WCIU, my first responses involved how we as organizations needed to care for our people and our partners. But in almost the same breath another dimension of my life also engaged: since 1990 I have lived in South Asia or been involved with leaders of movements to Jesus there. I have almost daily communication with these long-time friends and colleagues from different people groups and countries.

So, in this article, I want to trace the evolving response of one movement and its leaders to the crisis. I will do this through several emails I received, which give windows into the process. I share these chronologically.
These represent about a two-week window at the time. Though I am leaving much of the language the way it came to me, I have edited the messages to make them clearer and also more secure.

Message 1

As-salamu Alaikum!

I hope and pray that everything is well with you and your family and WCIU and FV and GT.

We are as family just doing fine. Thank you for praying for us.

Situation in the country is worsening. Many places isolated, lockdown. But some areas contaminated people are running away from isolation. People becoming crazy of making stock of food and other supplies. Price of essential commodities jump three times more than last week. Police trying to control the situation but there are not enough police to do that. Market is out of control.

In the villages people facing different problems, they cannot sell their agriculture product, fish, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. so they have no money to buy things they need.

Every day increasing number of affected people. Death toll also increased.

In this situation, panic everywhere. Our people are also afraid. So far, I didn’t have any news of any affected among the movement. But as I talked with several Imams (KH: leaders, believers in the movement) and all of our workers over phone, villages are in chaos, rumors, anxiety and worries.

I have written a letter to all the leaders of our believers gatherings. I wrote about Psalm 91 and Psalm 121, tried to encourage people, reminding them to trust God and keep faith in God.

Also, I wrote detail instruct for preventive measures, following health advice from Government and WHO [World Health Organization].

Last three days I was sending the letters by courier services person to person delivery. Including today I have sent 800 letters, I need to send about 6,000 (to get to all the leaders), no matter how long it takes. Courier is a bit expensive, but I have no other way. I must encourage our people and help them wherever I can.

As you can see, in that first communication, there was concern, practical advice and spiritual encouragement. You can also notice that the concern was already shifting: not just the health risks of the virus but the fall out in terms of income, jobs, and food.

Message 2

As-salamu Alaikum!

Yesterday I had a conference call with our main leaders (the elders) about how we should face this crisis. The result:

In order to get a good understanding of the real situation at this moment and what will come in next few weeks, we need to make survey. So, I have asked 25 of our leaders to call all of our Imams (local leaders) through cell phone. They will report back tomorrow (Sunday). We are finding out:

What is present situation there? What kind of needs and crisis are there? Is there any gathering of believers that has already taken any program or action to the response to the crisis? What kind of participation we can expect from our people? How many local volunteers we can find and use to help locally? Any suggestions from local leaders?

As I understood by talking over phone: Big crisis of shortage workers for harvest in whole north of country. This is potato harvesting season there, potato must harvest before rain come. Onion growing districts are also facing same problem.  Lowland areas must harvest rice before rainwater rush to lowland area. These districts can grow one crop in a year, most of the time land remain under water.

I am going to follow brother “A” as he is doing in his country. He gave us a wonderful Idea. Pray that we’ll be able.

Note here that brother “A” is a leader of a similar movement in another country; we meet as a group weekly and these brothers share their ideas and pray together, so, “A” had mentioned that in his country the believers were voluntarily going out to do the harvesting for different villages so there would be food for people.

At this stage ideas are forming, they are surveying and trying to get ideas from the ground level.

Message 3

(Note, between Message 2 and 3 this movement decided to do a short food program for 3,100 families, costing about $8 per family for a week)

As-salamu Alaikum!

A small good news, I want to share with you.

As I was communicating with many people for help, I have some positive responses.

I have promises from a government member, not a believer, and a business owner, not a believer, for 165,000 more. And police officer, a believer, for another 35,000.

All of our own leaders will give 25% of their salaries next three month (April to June), and our translation team also will give 25% of their salaries next three month.

Message 4

As-salamu Alaikum!

As we all know situation not going to change soon, it may last until middle of June as they are talking.

The food distribution plan I have taken (started) and if I even get all that fund, that was only for one week. And as week passes, there will be more people needing help.

So, I was thinking what to do. There some people who use to have work but because lockdown they are out of job. I called this young man and asked him if I help him and he will earn enough for himself and for his family and at the same time, he will be helping people.

I explain to him that I will give him enough money to buy one little “van” (moved by manpower), and then buy fresh vegetables from villages and take them to the town and go house to house. (KH: Total investment was just over $130 USD). People need vegetables, they will buy, you will make profit. Next day you will do same. (KH: keeping distance).

He immediately agreed. So, this week we bought this van and last two days he was doing as I told him.  He sold and made a 25% profit of about $15.25 USD from the vegetable sales.

This is one-time help, but this will make him a helper instead of a help seeker. He will become a businessman. He is very happy because he is earning again.

This young man is a believer from nearby district. I know him and his father, know his home. He is staying in my town now with few other people, he will pay a daily rent. He will send money to his family and also help others in his gathering of believers, and those are in need.

Every evening he will come to my home, we are going study Scripture together. I think he has wonderful opportunity to tell people about gospel of the kingdom through his deed and life, through his behavior and through his words.

Hopefully this gives you a little window. Instead of telling a lot of stories, and instead of focusing on something outsider friends might be doing or helping with, I wanted to give you a window into this movement, its leadership and its attempts to respond.

Revealing our Humanity?

I am guessing you have read about the good, the bad and the ugly that the crisis has brought out. I hear about the racist reactions, about Hindus blaming Muslims, Muslims blaming Christians, Americans blaming the Chinese (even those living here in our own country) and more. I hear stories of selfishness and “grabbing.”

But, like you I am sure, I also hear stories of selflessness, of social workers and medical workers putting themselves at risk; of people sewing masks for others; of people sharing food (and even toilet paper!).

This story from a movement at the edges of the kingdom among the unreached is one that I find especially encouraging today, revealing as it does the heart of Jesus in these brothers and sisters and the very real transformation He can bring.

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

What Do We Do Now?

What Do We Do Now?

Unless you were around when the 1918 Spanish Flu hit the world, leading to at least 50 million deaths, none of us have experienced anything like what we have been going through with the coronavirus crisis. It has affected all of us to one degree or another.  As I write in late May, many countries and various U.S. states are lifting lockdown orders and people are learning how to do business in new ways while living with the virus. The lockdowns have not succeeded in eliminating the virus, just slowing its spread long enough for hospitals and governments to cope with its impact. As a result, those most vulnerable to the virus will have to continue taking extraordinary precautions to protect themselves while the virus continues its gradual spread through the broader society until “herd immunity” is achieved or a vaccine is developed. 

The efforts to suppress the coronavirus have already caused global upheaval unlike anything we have seen since World War II. The massive economic dislocations caused by shelter-in-place orders are just now becoming visible as unemployment in the U.S. approaches Great Depression levels. It is even more serious for the poor around the world, who, if they are prohibited from working today, do not eat today either. The critical question for governments at every level is what will kill more people, an unchecked coronavirus or the economic lockdowns meant to halt its spread? There are no quick or easy answers here. The likelihood is that we will be dealing with the effects of this pandemic for years to come. Our lives may never get back to what we used to know as “normal.”

As this virus is changing our lives in dramatic ways, it is also changing the way we go about doing missions—which is what this issue is all about. How do we reach people and make disciples while wearing masks and practicing social distancing? It is a new world and we will have to develop creative new ways to foster movements of discipleship and church-planting in all peoples.
The confidence we have is that God is in this and He is working to open hearts and minds as never before. We need to be prepared to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in what He is doing at this time. 

Mission agencies are adapting and adjusting their methods and strategies to continue their mission in spite of these unprecedented challenges. From Zoom conferences and training sessions to food programs for the poor, they are learning to do missions in a rapidly changing environment. This crisis is stretching our creativity in bold new ways. Perhaps that is exactly what God wants.

Moving Forward in Faith

In various articles in this issue we look back at how the Church has responded to prior pandemics. Take note of the wonderful article by Glenn Sunshine starting on page 23 and the more contemporary example during the Ebola outbreak in Africa starting on page 34. In every case, the people of God moved toward danger and took risks in loving and caring for the needs of those in their community stricken by illness. The unbelievers abandoned the sick. The believers came to their rescue, often at the expense of their own lives. As a result, the gospel expanded greatly. This does not mean that we should be foolish or cavalier in endangering our lives. It does mean that we should take prudent precautions according to medical knowledge while still reaching out to those in need. We can limit, but never eliminate, the risk to ourselves while carrying out our mission to the unreached peoples. As C. Anderson says so well in our lead article starting on page 8, we must not react in fear, but in faith and be willing to go in and boldly “take the land.” In the best of times, missions is a risky business. To enter an unreached people and start a movement is a very costly endeavor and untold numbers of faithful servants have suffered greatly to advance Christ’s kingdom. Some have paid the ultimate price. We are called to reject fear and the “bad reports” we are getting from the media and to obey what Jesus is calling each of us to do in our local context, trusting God with our health and the results of our ministry. Refusing to go to the unreached in order to protect ourselves is not an option for the obedient Jesus follower.

A Movement in Buddhist Thailand—Remarkable!

The article on page 43 about the movement in Thailand is one that you do not want to miss in this issue. There are many lessons that we can learn from the efforts of The Free in Jesus Christ Church Association in reaching out to Buddhist peoples.  The story of this movement first appeared as the cover story in the April 2019 issue of Christianity Today. The key lesson for us is how Pastor Somsak adapted his evangelistic approach to reaching Thai Buddhists. There are few known movements to Christ among Buddhist peoples. So when one does occur, it makes us stand up and ask, “What can we learn from this example and apply to other Buddhist peoples?” Unlocking the key to movements among Buddhist peoples is essential in our efforts to bring the gospel to all peoples. This movement in Thailand is worth our careful study.

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This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

The FJCCA Church Planting Movement

The FJCCA Church Planting Movement

Thirty years ago, a young Thai man came to faith. With no other churches nearby he planted what is now Chon Daen Church in Phetcabun Province. Between 1987 and 2016 this man, Pastor Somsak, helped plant 13 more churches in Central and Northeast Thailand. Then in late 2016 the number of churches more than doubled in one month, and Pastor Somsak received a vision to train 1,000 church planters, start 1,000 churches and baptize 10,000 new believers by 2020.

While there are many movements among Hindus and Muslims, movements among Buddhists are rare, especially in Thailand where less than one percent of Thai are believers after 400 years of missionary effort. Yet the Free in Jesus Christ Church Association (FJCCA) had grown in three and a half years to 16,258 Christians by the end of 2019, which is very significant. “Of these 39% have been baptized and 53% attend a house or mother church on a regular basis. 656 house churches have been started and eight new mother churches have been built to support the network of house churches.”1 The story of this movement was remarkable enough to become the cover story for the April 2019 issue Christianity Today2.

Pastor Somsak’s common sense business background and his sensitivity to and knowledge of Thai social preferences has led him (through trial and error) to an effective and appropriate means of sharing the gospel with Thai Buddhists. He has mobilized dozens of local lay volunteer Christians who effectively contextualize their evangelistic strategy and gospel communication. There are no Bible school graduates or foreign missionaries involved in this effort.

Cognitive Contextualization3

The FJCCA has contextualized the gospel in terms of at least three Thai cognitive categories. First, the use of the term Prachao (lord or god) by Thai Christians is confusing to Buddhists because it can refer to any number of Hindu deities, local spirits, angels or even a king. To avoid this confusion FJCCA only speaks of PhraYesu or Jesus. This is no trivial change of nomenclature, since it clarifies the story of the gospel for Thai who now understand that the message is about a God named Jesus who was incarnated and died to take away our bad karma. Jesus, they are told, is ready to help us with our problems and guide us today.

Second, while the FJCCA acknowledges the Father, the Son and the Spirit as they read of them in Scripture, it does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Pastor Somsak explains, “It’s not my history.” By this he means that the doctrine is not articulated in the Scriptures and the philosophical debates that gave rise to the doctrine are not relevant to Thai people. In fact, the doctrine of the Trinity often leads Thai to understand that Christians worship three gods. As new believers grow in their faith and study the Scriptures, they learn of the roles of God the Father, the Son and the Spirit, but this is not analyzed or articulated in philosophical categories.

Third, the FJCCA does not pray that new believers be filled with the Holy Spirit since this language suggests to the Thai that one is being possessed by a spirit in the way a spirit medium or the priest of a guardian spirit is possessed. Consequently, the role of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life is taught later in the discipleship process.

Social Contextualization

FJCCA’s strategy is contextualized to its social environment. There are 40 evangelism teams from 17 mother churches that strategically go to unreached villages sharing a simple gospel message on a daily basis. Each team is made up of five volunteers. They begin by finding a person of peace; a non-Christian who is sympathetic to the message of the gospel. This person introduces them to relatives and friends who might also be interested in hearing the gospel. They then ask permission from the village head man in the area to hold a meeting to share the good news about Jesus. In this way the teams are “sponsored” into new communities by individuals from the community making their presence acceptable. Evangelism meetings are held under someone’s outdoor sitting area that has a roof (sala) or even in a Buddhist temple compound making the event public. The event can be as small as 10 or 12 or more than 150 people.

Team members speak with energy and confidence as they share life experiences as to why they believe in Jesus, and simple, short teachings. Each person speaks for no longer than five minutes; there is no hard-sell and the message is simple and peppered with life experiences of new believers. The atmosphere is one of informal hospitality and everyone gets a small bowl of noodle soup served up by the team. The meetings are highly participatory and interesting which means the events qualify as something Thai call sanuk (enjoyable). The team members act with suphab (polite humility) and they khaolob (show deference and respect) to local authorities.

The last speaker asks if anyone would like to receive new life in Jesus. Everyone speaks and gives thanks in Jesus’ name. Prayers for those who want to receive Jesus are recited not only by the new believer but by the whole audience. The reciting of prayers out loud is traditional in Thai Buddhism and new believers are encouraged to pray and develop their own relationship with Jesus. They are taught to pray by a paper they are given that has five short prayers printed in a large font. There are morning, noon and evening prayers as well as prayers of confession and for times of need. The large font is important in villages that have so many elderly people with bad eyesight and poor lighting in their homes. The children have their own meeting and are led through a simple short explanation of the gospel as well.

From these village evangelism events typically 10 or more adults show a desire to follow Jesus. From this core of new believers, a house church is formed. The result is that churches are planted in clusters as the gospel moves from village to village through neighbors and friends (see the map at Every week one or more of the church planters returns to this village to teach the new believers. Church planters return until a leader is “raised up” from within that house church.

When 20 to 30 villages in an area have house churches, the FJCCA builds a one-room mother church large enough to hold between 100 and 500 people, depending upon the size of the local house church network. A kitchen area is constructed behind the building to accommodate the fellowship meals of the community. The mother church serves as a central worship center and training center to strengthen the surrounding house churches. They follow a typical contemporary Protestant order of service with the exception that before the message they open up the service for attenders to share what they have learned through Scripture or life experience that week.

FJCCA sees the first few months of Christian faith for a new believer to be a crucial period in their spiritual lives. Typical Christian church services are very different from temple community and ritual practice and are not easy for new believers to adapt and fit in to. The experience can be overwhelming to a new person. Consequently, new believers are encouraged to attend only the house church until they have grown in their faith. Once they are comfortable in their faith they may attend the mother church if they choose.

New believers also decide when they want to be baptized. This could happen right after they identify themselves as a Christian or much later. Being baptized indicates that a new Christian has decided to abandon their former objects of worship and spiritual allegiances; now they are ready to only worship Jesus.

The FJCCA does not forbid new believers from going to the temple or from fulfilling their family obligations to help their family members make merit and care for their ancestors. Instead, the decision to stop these Buddhist practices is left to the new believer to make in their way and time. This allows new Christians to assure their loved ones of their love and respect for family and to decide when and how they might stop participating in merit rituals. In one church I met the lay Buddhist leader from the temple immediately across the street from the church. He explained that he was a new believer in Jesus but he is still leading the Buddhist congregation through the temple rituals with the monks until he is able to find someone to replace him. This kind of easy accommodation to the needs of both communities is rarely found in Thai Protestant churches and seemed refreshingly practical and kind.

Discipling Buddhists to Christian Faith

FJCCA pays careful attention to the discipleship process in two important ways. First, they follow up new believers within 48 hours to teach them how to pray to Jesus and to have them begin a personal relationship with Jesus. This is made easier by the fact that the teams carefully record the new believer’s name, address, the date they came to faith, age, gender, etc., along with the person’s photograph, and enter it into a database that tracks new believers and the location of all their churches. This means that the growth of this movement is being tracked in real time. Who has been discipled and to what level is digitally tracked for every person in the movement.

Second, new believers are discipled in an easy to understand, step by step process. Initially, a new believer is given a small booklet called, Jesus’ Plan for Us (printed in a large font) that helps the person understand the gospel better. Each lesson is reviewed and taught again in their community meetings and new believers are encouraged to practice teaching the lesson to others. This eventually results in a firm grasp of the gospel and believers who are able to articulate the basics of their new faith. Later, new believers enter a second level of discipleship from the Gospel of John through a book called, The Water of Life. A third book, Abundant Life, covers basic doctrine. The third level of discipleship guides new believers in reading and studying the Bible within their house groups.

SE Asian mission efforts have seen many Buddhist converts fail to continue in their walk of faith. One reason for this has been that most churches have required Buddhists converts to quickly renounce everything associated with Buddhism, effectively making it impossible for new believers to honor their families. FJCCA deals with this by allowing new believers to decide how and when to address Buddhist ritual duties connected to family. This helps explain the delay between praying a prayer of initial belief in Jesus and being baptized (as mentioned above 39% of the new believers have been baptized). Conversion is dealt with as a process that includes:

  • praying that Jesus will take away their bad karma and come into the new believer’s life
  • being discipled
  • becoming a member of a house church
  • learning to only follow and pray to Jesus
  • turning over household temple duties to family members
  • and, when ready, public baptism.

Another issue related to this pattern has been the failure of churches and missionaries to follow up and guide new believers into mature Christian discipleship. Such discipleship is labor intensive and time-consuming. It requires careful tracking of new believers and a large number of volunteers capable of teaching others to take the next step in their life with Jesus. FJCCA’s data system and army of willing, enthusiastic volunteers meet these demands.

Pastor Somsak and the FJCCA clearly bring entrepreneurial experience, practicality and flexibility to their ministry. They are always assessing and adjusting what they do along the way. Whatever helps people understand easily, whatever helps people feel at home in the church and whatever helps facilitate the rapid and easy spread of the gospel is retained. Whatever is a hindrance is discarded.

In one village that we went to the presentation of the gospel was delayed because it was raining so hard that no one could hear even when using a small PA system. Because the rain did not let up for a considerable amount of time some of the audience left. Later when they tried to hold the evangelistic event the audience was inattentive. Afterwards the team discussed what to do next time something like that happened. They decided to plan an activity for the group to do while they waited for the rain to stop in hopes of keeping their interest until they could share the gospel and be heard.

This easy flexibility is a key part of their strategy. It is also directly related to the fact that they are not connected to any western missionary or church organization. Without these outside theological and historical constraints, they are free to read the Bible in their context to arrive at theological and methodological decisions that are faithful to scriptures and effective.

  1. 1 Dwight Martin. Email eStar Newslettter dated January 12, 2020.

  2. 2  

  3.  3 I understand cultural contextualization to refer to mental ideals of what is true, good and beautiful. Social issues relate more directly to how people actually relate; it is what people do. The social realities of love, hate, wealth, poverty, power, weakness, health and illness / death often are more important factors in human behavior than our cognitive ideals.

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

The Church’s Response to Pandemics Throughout History and the Lessons for Today

The Church’s Response to Pandemics Throughout History and the Lessons for Today

When Jesus called the Twelve and then the Seventy, He commissioned them to do the things He Himself was doing: They were to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons and proclaim the coming of the kingdom. The early Church recognized that they were also called to do what Jesus did, though they did it differently than those commissioned during Jesus’ early life. Thus, Jesus set us free from our bondage to sin; we cannot do that, but we can set people free from slavery, and so early Christians purchased slaves specifically to free them. Similarly, Jesus was a healer, and so we too should tend the sick whether we have miraculous power to heal or not. Both activities, while good deeds in themselves, also served to advance the kingdom. In this article we will focus on tending the sick, especially during plagues and pandemics.

The first major epidemic faced by the early Church was the Antonine Plague (AD 166–189), brought to Rome by troops returning from campaigning against the Persians. The disease, most likely smallpox, killed 7–10% of the population of the Empire as a whole, with mortality in cities probably 13–15%. According to Dio Cassio, it killed 2,000 people per day in Rome during a particularly bleak period in AD 189. People understood that the disease was contagious, so in fear of their lives they would throw the sick out of their homes to die in the streets.

Galen, the most prominent physician of the age, fled Rome when the plague arrived to stay at his country estate.
He knew he could do nothing to heal its victims or to protect himself from contracting the disease. Christians on the other hand, ran into the plague. They recognized that all persons were made in the image of God, that Jesus died to redeem us body and soul, and thus that the sick deserved care. As a result, Christians began tending the sick at risk (and often at the cost) of their lives.

Galen, who viewed Christians as naïve and irrational, admitted that in some respects they were the equals of philosophers in that they had a contempt of death and its sequel that was evident every day. It is not clear whether he was referring to their willingness—even eagerness—to face martyrdom or to their actions in treating the sick. It may have been both: at about this same time a Roman Senator named Apollonius was put on trial for being a Christian and associated his upcoming death as a martyr with dying of disease, reportedly commenting, “It is often possible for dysentery and fever to kill; so I will consider that I am being destroyed by one of these.”

Since even basic nursing care can make a significant difference in survival rates in epidemics, Christian actions during the plague saved lives. Their undoubted courage and self-sacrifice in coming to the aid of their neighbors contributed to the rapid growth of Christianity. For example, when Irenaeus arrived in Lyons from Asia Minor, there were few Christians in the city. When the plague broke out, Christians tended and prayed for the sick, and by the time the plague ended, there were 200,000 believers in Lyons.

The following century brought the Plague of Cyprian, named after Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage who described the epidemic. It was a grim disease. In Cyprian’s words, “The intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; the eyes are on fire with the infected blood; in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction.” Experts think it may have been a fresh outbreak of smallpox or perhaps a hemorrhagic fever like Ebola. At its peak, the plague killed 5,000 people per day in the city of Rome alone. Up to two-thirds of the population of Alexandria, the second largest city of the Empire, died of the disease.

Cyprian’s fellow bishop, Dionysius of Alexandria, described the reaction of the pagans: “At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treating unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.” But not everyone abandoned the sick. Dionysius explains:

Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead.

As had happened with the Antonine Plague, Dionysius compares the ministry to the ill to martyrdom, whose literal meaning is bearing witness to Christ. Cyprian agreed. He commented, “Although this mortality had contributed nothing else, it has especially accomplished this for Christians and servants of God, that we have begun gladly to seek martyrdom while we are learning not to fear death.” He continued, “By the terrors of mortality and of the times, lukewarm men are heartened, the listless nerved, the sluggish awakened; deserters are compelled to return; heathens brought to believe; the congregation of established believers is called to rest; fresh and numerous champions are banded in heartier strength for the conflict, and having come into warfare in the season of death, will fight without fear of death, when the battle comes.”

“Heathens [were] brought to believe.” Christians attended to sick pagans, and in the process connected with new social networks, and as sociologist of religion Rodney Stark has demonstrated, religions spread best through social networks. When combined with the recognition of Christian courage, compassion, and service the entrance of the gospel into pagan social networks led to the explosive growth of Christianity in the Empire.

It is worth noting that Christians approached illness using the medical theory and practices of the day. Contrary to some stereotypes, the early Church did not attribute illness to demons, though they did recognize demonization as a real phenomenon. The difference between Christians and the physicians of the day was the willingness of believers to risk death to treat the sick, convinced that if they died it would only mean a transition to a better life; the physicians, on the other hand, fled.

In the fourth century, Constantine declared religious liberty in the Empire, effectively legalizing Christianity. Later that century, Theodosius I made Christianity the official religion of the Empire, though many pagans continued to live in and around Roman territory. Missions work to the Germanic tribes in northern Europe and central Europe continued. Politically, the Latin-speaking Western half of the Roman Empire largely disintegrated in the fifth century. In the East, the Emperor Justinian I began to rebuild the Empire, but his efforts were cut short by an outbreak of bubonic plague in 541 that killed approximately 40% of the population of the Empire and spread across Europe. There would be recurring outbreaks in various places around Europe until about 750.

The world had changed in many ways with the spread of Christianity. By the late fourth century, Christians had founded hospitals in both the eastern and western halves of the Empire, and when the plague broke out, Christian hospitals, churches and monasteries provided much of the medical care for the sick. Once again, Christians also engaged in evangelistic work even as they treated the sick. John of Ephesus went to hard-hit areas, praying for the sick and seeing them healed and preaching a message of repentance, with thousands coming to faith. As far away as Ireland, the great missionary monks of the seventh century, known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, also ministered during the plague. In the end, the disease took at least three of them—Mobhi, Columba of Terryglass, and Ciaran of Clonmacnoise—along with their teacher Finnian of Clonard. Plague disappeared from Europe for 600 years. It came back in 1347 in Sicily and 1348 on the continent, and by 1351 it had killed just under half the people in Europe according to the most recent studies. Among the clergy, the percentage was even higher: they knew their duty was to minister to the sick and comfort the dying, and so they knowingly exposed themselves to the disease as they carried out their work. To most people, plague looked like the wrath of God, and so lay movements arose where men marched in processions from town to town beating themselves bloody to show God their sorrow for their sins. For its part, the Catholic Church soon disavowed these movements and called for their end. The reason was simple: if plague was God’s punishment for our sin, what did it say that both the nobles and the clergy were dying just like the others? The flagellants, as these groups were called, were just a small step from rejection of both church and government and so from complete anarchy.

But if plague wasn’t the wrath of God, what was it? The Pope turned to the theologians at the University of  Paris for an answer. This may seem odd, but in the four-teenth century what we call “science”—studying the natural world—was considered a branch of theology. Since God created and sustains the universe, coming to understand how it works is a way of revealing the mind
of God. For their part, the theologians followed the example of the early church and came up with a natural explanation of the outbreak of plague based on the best medical knowledge of the day. They concluded that the disease was caused by a miasma, that is, by poisoned air pulled from the ground by the effect of a conjunction of planets, and thus the best way to deal with it was to eliminate, avoid, or “sweeten” foul odors. This would lead to a tremendous expansion of public sanitation in medieval cities as well as personal practices of dubious value to ward off plague.

While we might shake our heads at this as superstitious nonsense, it was based on the best medical theory they had, going back to the writings of the Roman physician Galen. This followed the example of the early Christians, who also based their approach to disease on the medicine of their day. In the context of the 14th century, it is perhaps most remarkable that the theologians advocated a natural explanation for plague and made recommendations to deal with it based on that explanation. This was in marked contrast to the Islamic world, for example. Earlier in the middle ages, Muslim medicine was far advanced from that of Europe, largely because Muslims had access to Greek medical treatises translated into Arabic by Syrian Christians such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq. By this point, however, a kind of Islamic fundamentalism had settled into Muslim Spain that rejected much of the knowledge in the Greek treatises as un-Islamic. According to the Quran, in an epidemic, Allah alone determines who gets ill and who lives or dies. Any attempt to prevent or treat plague was thus seen as apostacy since it amounted to an attempt to thwart the will of Allah. For all its fancifulness, the medieval Catholic Church’s explanation of plague had the virtue of attempting to find a natural explanation for it and thus a means of dealing with the disease.

There were recurring outbreaks of plague in Europe for over 300 years. Perhaps the best advice for responding to plague during these centuries came from Martin Luther. When plague broke out near Wittenberg, he was asked if it was permissible to flee. His answer was long, but his comments on his own approach are worth noting. He said that he would follow all the recommendations of the doctors, including “fumigating” his house (to drive off the miasma) and social isolation so that he would not be responsible for his own death or any other’s. If it were his time to die, he said, God would know where to find him. But while following medical advice as much as possible, he would not neglect his duties as a Christian and a pastor. If his neighbor needed him, if someone needed his comfort when sick or dying, it was his duty to be there. And if it cost him his life, so be it. He would not court trouble, but neither would he hide from it if his neighbor needed him.

After plague died out in Europe, the relationship of the Church to medicine changed. Even during the middle ages, medicine had become its own field of study; by the eighteenth century, it was increasingly separated from the clergy. The poor would receive charitable care from monasteries in Catholic areas, and nursing was almost entirely in the hands of sisters and nuns, but for those who could afford it, professional physicians increasingly handled medical issues. Clergy would still attend the dying, of course, but they had few other responsibilities to the sick.

The clergy still addressed questions of medical ethics. For example, in the 1700s, physicians developed an experimental form of inoculation against smallpox in which material from smallpox scabs was rubbed into scratches on the arm with the hope of generating an immune response without causing a serious case of the disease. Some Puritan pastors in New England condemned the practice as putting the Lord to the test and as being tantamount to suicide; others, such as Jonathan Edwards, advocated it as the only option they had for mitigating an epidemic disease that had killed thousands and left uncounted others disfigured. Edwards allowed himself to be inoculated, which unfortunately led to his death by smallpox. [Editor’s Note: During the U.S. Revolutionary War, Abigail Adams, wife of future president John Adams, carried out the same type of inoculation upon herself and her children and they all survived.]

Moving into the 1800s, missionary activity often included a medical component. Hudson Taylor himself was a trained physician and worked as a medical missionary in his first trip to China. There were two reasons why medical missions was such an important component of missionary strategy. First, Christianity has always affirmed the importance of the body as evident in the history of Christian responses to epidemics. As a result, wherever Christianity has gone, hospitals have followed (In the same way, Christianity has always affirmed the importance of the mind, and so wherever Christianity has gone, schools have followed). Jesus healed people’s bodies, and we should do the same to the best of our abilities. Second, medical work is an important and effective door opener for the gospel. It brings us into contact with people at their point of need, builds relationships with them and gives us access to their social networks. And since the gospel flies best on the wings of relationships, the connections established through medical work are an important entry point for disciple-making. In contemporary DMM contexts, fixed and mobile medical clinics, barefoot doctors and dentists, and other healthcare ministries have opened the door to disciple-making and church-planting that have transformed countless communities around the world.

Along with formal medical treatment, throughout history we also see the importance of prayer for the sick, particularly in regions without access to modern medicine. It is not at all uncommon to find reports of miraculous healings in answer to prayer in epidemics in various parts of the world over the last 200 years and in Disciple Making Movements today.

So what lessons can we learn from all of this in our time of pandemic? I would suggest five.

First, Christians have a responsibility to deal with disease. Jesus did; He called the Apostles and the Seventy to it, and He continues to call us to it. Our bodies are not just an add-on; they are such an essential part of who we are that we will get them back transformed in the resurrection. Thus, taking care of people’s health is part of our responsibility before God.

Second, from the earliest centuries Christians have recognized medicine as a good gift of God and have utilized the best medical knowledge and technologies available; they have also advocated following medical advice. As we deal with Covid-19 and other diseases, we should be following their example.

Third, Christians have acted courageously and at great personal risk in helping the sick. While we should follow medical advice, we cannot allow that advice to overrule our responsibilities to our neighbor. Loving our neighbor may mean different things at different times. It may mean social distancing so we do not risk infecting them as Luther suggested, but it may also mean going into areas where we risk contracting the disease ourselves. If we do go into those areas, we should take all possible precautions against infection but recognize with Paul that “for me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Fourth, we must not neglect prayer. Whether we can provide medical assistance or not, we can and should always pray for the sick. God continues to heal in response to prayer, and we would be foolish not to turn to Him in all our efforts to deal with illness and its impact on lives and communities.

Fifth, we pray and do our medical work with all, regardless of their openness to the gospel, but we look for those who are open to engage in spiritual conversations with the goal of making disciples. We should look on every service we do for others as an opportunity to build relationships, connect with social networks, and begin the process of disciple-making with all who are open. In this way we fulfill all of our callings in the world: we fulfill the cultural mandate of Genesis by working to fix what is broken in the world; we fulfill the great commandment by loving our neighbor; and we fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples.

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Global Status of COVID-19 Pandemic

Global Status of COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is generally accepted to have begun in Wuhan, China. Through the power of exponential growth coupled with international travel, the virus quickly spread to touch nearly every country in the world, saturating several. No individual nation’s response has fully conquered the virus. As of May 6, over 3.5 million cases and 250,000 deaths are attributed to the pandemic, and this is certainly a vast undercount. Because it is a novel or “new” virus, there is no vaccine. There are currently no known, confirmed cures for the virus.

(I realize some readers will take exception to some of the statements I have made in the preceding paragraph and in many of the following paragraphs. I am writing from the viewpoint of information “known and confirmed” by epidemiologists, virologists, and other doctors. While many hypotheses, possibilities, and theories are circulating, in this article I will refrain from the speculative.)

I. Current Status

Unfortunately, in spite of the existence of over three million cases, relatively little is known about this virus. Further, what is known varies greatly by context. Still, we can generally say COVID-19 presents a unique set of dangers:

  • It appears to be more infectious than the many varieties of flu with which it is often compared. Estimates of the R0 value (a measure of how many people one infected person will, on average, infect) vary from 1.5 to 5.0.
  • It appears to be more fatal than the flu. The World Health Organization has estimated the global crude fatality rate (known deaths/known cases) at 3.5%. In the USA, the known crude fatality rate (known deaths/known cases) is 4.6%. CDC estimates influenza in the United States typically has a fatality rate of about 0.1%. Thankfully, COVID-19 does not appear to be as deadly as SARS, MERS or Ebola, whose high fatality rates generated significant urgency.

  • It has a three to five-day post-infection asymptomatic period. During this time, an infected person can live life without any symptoms—walking around, not knowing they have the virus, while passing it on to others. (In fact, some new research suggests as much as 25% of actual cases never show symptoms at all, while still being infectious.) This is a primary driver of COVID-19 transmission.
  • During the second week after infection, symptoms begin to show and people will know they are infected. About 80 to 90% cases never progress beyond a “mild” variation—though even this can be similar to a “very severe case of the flu” which can take two to three weeks for initial recovery, then several more weeks for full recovery.
  • About 10% of cases worsen and need hospitalization in the second or third week. In the early stages, this generally means some form of oxygen support. About one-third of these cases will require intubation and the use of a special ventilator. Of patients requiring a ventilator, about half will die. (All ages can experience a need for hospitalization, although fatalities are more common among the elderly and those with certain pre-existing health problems.)

Very early on, doctors and epidemiologists began warning about “the big problem:” the highly infectious nature of the virus causes exponential growth, rapidly infecting large numbers of people. Consider the United States, with a population of about 330 million. The UK’s Imperial model analyzed what might happen if the virus were to sweep through, infecting 85% or more. 85% is 281 million people. Of these, the model estimated 7%, or 20 million, would likely need hospitalization. Of those, around one-third, or 6 million, would require critical care. About half of those in critical care—three million—would likely die.

There was a bigger problem, however: Because the numbers are large, even small percentages requiring ICU care in hospitals means hospital systems can be rapidly overwhelmed. The stark reality is, the United States does not have six million ICU beds available at any given time. At best, at any given time, it has about 100,000 ICU beds (American Hospital Association, 2020). If exponential growth happened too fast, hospitals could be overwhelmed with more cases than they had beds for. And without ICU care, everyone requiring it would likely die.

No one wanted to see this scenario happen. Is it realistic? How close are we to this happening?

II. How big is the problem, really?

How do we know how many cases are out there? Most of the time, people are treated for an illness when they go to a doctor’s office or urgent care facility. In an exponentially growing pandemic, by the time a person shows up for professional care, they have probably passed on the virus to several other people. The one person showing up for care today can result in three people showing up next week. Those three will become nine some days after that... and so on. We can count how many seek medical attention today, but we don’t know about all those other cases that will arrive tomorrow.

In fact, no one knows how many “actual” infections there are in the world. The number of confirmed cases does not equal actual cases. Confirmed cases simply means those confirmed by a test. If a country doesn’t test more than 10,000 people per day, it won’t discover more than 3.65 million cases in a year. A country testing 100,000 cases a day could uncover 36 million cases in a year, or about 10% of the United States. If such a country were actually 20% infected, we would never know it.

Nations usually can’t test everyone in their country. Decisions must be made about who to test. Some countries, like South Korea and Singapore, responded by testing those who have the disease, and those they were around. Some countries, such as the United States, test only those with symptoms, and not necessarily all of those. And some countries, like Iran and India, simply do not have the capacity to test much at all. Worst, some countries are intentionally under-testing and under-reporting their numbers, or insisting they have no infections at all.

The unseen nature of the early asymptomatic period complicates this further. By the time a person has symptoms and decides to go for a test, they may have already passed the disease to many others—so tested numbers will always lag behind actual numbers, but we don’t know by how much.

Because of tests done up to this point, we know at least 3.6 million are infected. The total number of known cases, and the growth in those cases over time, gives us a limited picture of the reality. Obviously, there are far more than that in reality. Can we estimate how many people actually have the virus?

We can rely on the fatality rate. We calculate this based on deaths divided by cases, but we don’t know the real fatality rate because we don’t know the number of actual cases (many mild cases are missed), and we undercount the deaths. The ‘Crude Fatality Rate’ is total confirmed deaths divided by total confirmed diseases. Globally, this rate is estimated at 257,000 / 3.6 million or 7%. Rates differ between countries, and the limitations on what we know about total cases and deaths in some can significantly skew even the calculation. Where testing is widest, the rate is closer to 2%. The World Health Organization has estimated the actual average rate at 3.5%.

If we assume 3.5% is somewhat close to correct, then for every death there would be about 29 cases (1 is 3.5% of 29). However, the virus typically takes around three weeks to progress from infection to death. And over the last few months, the virus has demonstrated a doubling rate of four days. In three weeks’ time, there would be five such doublings. 29 cases three weeks ago would become 29 -> 57 -> 114 -> 229 -> 457 -> 914. For every death, there are potentially 1,000 more cases out there—some known, most not. 100,000 deaths suggests 100 million infections.

It’s hard to build a good model, and all models are very imprecise. It’s like using a sledgehammer on a finishing nail. Many people have debated and argued and even disregarded the models. Because we have so little testing, we don’t really know the scope of the problem. But the continuing growth in cases and the indicators we have from the mortality rate tells us it’s clearly much bigger than what we can see, and growing every day.

 III. Immediate responses

When governments began to come to grips with this reality, some began to respond. Three kinds of responses have been tried, to varying degrees. First is testing.
If exponential growth can be caught early, the virus can more easily be stopped. Step one would be to find a confirmed infection. Next would be to test everyone with whom the infected person has come into contact, and you quarantine all the positive results. (Better yet, re-test them a week later.) It’s easier to quarantine one person and his or her 10 or even 100 closest friends for a couple of weeks (take over a hotel, or confine them to houses, or what have you) than to quarantine everyone after the virus has doubled five or six times.

Second is surveillance. This is often done in concert with testing, and can touch on privacy issues (some governments have less problem with this than others). South Korea, for example, had very broad surveillance. When a person was found to be infected, Korea would go back through their cell phone GPS logs and track every cell phone the infected person had come in contact with for two weeks. All of those people were then told to quarantine as well. South Korea furthered the use of “geofencing” surveillance as a form of quarantine: people were required to stay in their homes as defined by a set of GPS coordinates. If they left, the police would be summoned.

The third response is a lockdown. When the virus gets ahead of a government, the only option may be to confine everyone in a given area to their homes in order to break the transmission chains. A person can’t give it to someone else if they don’t come in contact with them. Various degrees of lockdowns have been used. China used mobile phones and police enforcement to make sure people didn’t leave. In Dallas, where I live, the “shelter in place” order leaves exceptions for “essential” businesses, and everything mostly functions on the honor system.

IV. Short Term Dangers

Some governments do not have the technological ability or political will to do all these things. Lockdowns become inevitable but may be unenforceable. Many countries are now looking into a very dark abyss. I don’t think any country’s existence is threatened, but many are realizing they will see thousands, perhaps millions, dead.

Even those countries that have the ability to respond to the virus are finding it’s a challenging disease to quash. Many countries have addressed the virus too late and have had to go to lockdown. These countries are suffering significant economic impacts as a result.

Countries most impacted by the virus have also begun scrambling for medical supplies. Some supply rationing has happened. Some people began threatening others over availability of medical supplies. Some nations with supplies began using their donations as a form of diplomacy, which has been decried by others. (China in particular has fallen afoul of this issue.) Problems in the supply line and problems in product delivery can lead to darker accusations.

There’s also the ever-present panic of some individuals, leading to panic buying in stores, conspiracy theories, misinformation about cures and other rampant speculation. While most of the supply-chain issues that lead to panic buying have been sorted out, some will continue endlessly. In some countries, the severe economic impact in parts of the country less impacted by the virus is making citizens question the need for the lockdown—especially citizens under lockdown in less impacted parts of the country. In some countries with large numbers of day laborers (like India), the lockdown choice is a choice between starvation (no money) and death from the disease. Partisanship has begun to complicate medical efforts.

V. Mid-term threats (the next year or two)

All of these are short-term dangers: the sorts of challenges governments must deal with in the early stages of the pandemic, as people begin to recognize the scope of the problem. As governments and individuals begin to grapple with the exponential spread of the virus, more and more extraordinary efforts have been contemplated to “get ahead of the curve.” These have led to several broad actions that endanger international relations and will impact the ability for missions to conduct their work over the next several months.

First, many governments are facing economic crises, and the interplay of these is leading to a global recession. Supply chains are being damaged. Countries that rely on oil revenues, tourism or monetary remittances from migrant work are being deeply affected. The damage to the economy will certainly impact charitable giving. Sources in some American denominations are already suggesting as much as a 50% drop, threatening the very existence of some churches.

Some countries do not have the hospitals or medical infrastructure to adequately address the virus. In many, the true scope of the impact may be hidden. In some cases, hidden because without testing or hospitals, no one knows who is infected and who has died of the virus. In other cases, hidden because the governments are intentionally hiding it. Yet early analysis suggests countries like Iran and India could see hundreds of thousands or even millions of deaths. One report suggested 75% of Iranians could become infected. The widespread infection of whole populations will also impact the many Christians and Christian workers in these countries.

The rapid rise of infections, especially from people streaming into nations across borders, has led to the closure of borders. Nearly every country in the world currently has some sort of border restriction, and most are insisting on quarantines of all international arrivals, or even going so far as to close their borders and shut down international travel altogether. China, for example, has reduced all incoming arrivals over its borders (sea, land and air) by 90%.

This will have serious and long-term ramifications for cross-cultural missions (especially the short-term variety), and seems unlikely to change any time in the near future. Once nations “turn the corner” on the pandemic within their borders, they are loathe to “re-import” infections from the outside. Most international travelers will likely face the requirement of some kind of health certification or localized two-week quarantine, which will make short-term trips very challenging. Borders may remain closed for months or years.

Finally, there has been a significant rise in xenophobia and nationalism. There are instances of racism against foreigners in China, and against Chinese in other nations. The Dalits and Muslims in India have seen their position worsen. Many countries are hardening their restrictions against migrants. Xenophobia will make cross-cultural work harder still.

VI. Long-term scenarios (2 to 5 to 10 years)

This pandemic was not unexpected. For years experts have anticipated the rise of a world-changing pandemic. Scenarios have ranged from the “professional” (such as the Bush administration’s 2006 pandemic flu preparation plan) to the latest surge in zombie movies. COVID-19, however, is not a Hollywood movie with a two or three-hour plot and a pivotal ending where a cure is found and the world is saved. In the long run, COVID-19 will almost certainly persist until a vaccine is found. Even then, the virus will not end in a flash.

Ebola is an example. The first case of Ebola was identified in 1976. Probably the most memorable recent outbreak was the 2014 West Africa epidemic, which infected some 28,000 people and killed 11,000 (a near 50% fatality rate). But it did not end there. 2017 and 2018 saw outbreaks of Ebola in DR Congo. Just this month, there was another case of Ebola in DR Congo.

Likewise, the COVID-19 vaccine will not be rolled out overnight. It will take months and perhaps years to be administered throughout the world. This virus will continue to live in various places, and countries will have to guard against it.

It is possible that in this time frame, more business will be conducted via teleconference call, and the handful of trips abroad will already have the required health certifications. Exchange trips between universities will likely happen the same way. The remaining travel will be either tourism or religious volunteerism. I could envision a world where this segment of travel will receive a lot of scrutiny: countries will not welcome the idle tourist (who may carry the virus) or religious workers. I think international travel will likely become far more difficult for the next few years.

In the long term, the Church will continue to face a number of challenges:

  • Fear. We will grapple with the temptation to care for ourselves instead of serving others. Just as some in the church have asserted “We should disciple our own nation before we send workers elsewhere,” so we are likely to hear “We should protect the Church now so we can sustain our witness later.”
  • Churches’ inability to meet in person will shake our definition of church, community, service, and acceptable risk. We can anticipate many debates over the nature of religious freedom and Christian responsibility, what is required of us, and what a “church” truly is.
  • The need to see traditionally unseen people. As the virus persists in some countries until a vaccine is found and deployed, responses to the virus—especially with the economics involved—will (indeed, already have begun to) take on a politically charged nature. People from other cultures will be viewed with more suspicion. The Church, and mission agencies specifically, will need intentional effort to focus on reaching difficult parts of the world (as well as diaspora here at home), where many will be suffering from the virus.
  • Choices due to downturns in charitable giving. Fewer resources available will force us to employ methods that don’t require significant monetary outlays. This, coupled with the difficulty of travel, may cause us to rely more on telecommuting and teleconferencing, and less on in-person conferences.
  • The danger of infection in the mission community. Since many missionaries work in places experiencing significant infection rates, missionaries and agencies will face hard choices. Many agencies are already shutting down physical movement, shifting conferences online, and even bringing their people back to their home countries. Once workers have left their fields of service, it’s uncertain how easily they will re-enter in the future.
  • The ability to sustain presence. With borders being closed, foreigners’ visas being cancelled, and people being expelled or repatriated, mission agencies’ ability to sustain their presence in any given country will be challenged.


In truth, we cannot envision all the scenarios we may face in the near future. I believe apocalypse and cataclysm will be largely avoided; instead, we will be faced with a long-term weakening. The virus has wounded us, and it will take a long time to heal.

During this time, we won’t know all the risks we face. Many of the risks will turn out to be substantial. All we can do is try to understand what we can while acknowledging the many things we cannot know. Jesus offers us life everlasting, but His words to His disciples were clear: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” We can reduce the risks as much as possible, but in the end we will have to decide to take Christlike action in spite of the risks.

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Possibilities in the Pandemic

Possibilities in the Pandemic

God is not surprised by this crisis. But we may be surprised by how He will use it. God will work through this pandemic as part of His sovereign plan to redeem the world. As His followers we must avoid the temptation to give in to fear. We cannot forget “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 NIV)
What is His purpose? We often quote verse 28 without looking at verse 29, which tells us God’s main purpose in working for good is that we become “conformed to the image of his Son…”

What are some ways God might use this crisis for conforming us to Jesus’ image and expanding His kingdom?

  • Stronger prayer—Around the world we are seeing God draw many individuals and groups into deeper and stronger times of listening, confession (2 Chr. 7:14) and intercession. A recent global Esther Fast before Easter involved tens of thousands of churches in many languages and countries.
  • Relying on God to workAs our human efforts are blocked or ineffective, we may well cooperate more with God as He works. As Hudson Taylor stated, “When we work, man works, when we pray God works.”
  • Increased faithIn times of crisis we realize we are not in control, and that draws us back to God. We are pulled back to “living by faith” (Gal. 2:20) and “walking by faith.” (2 Cor. 5:17) For many people this is a call to let God free them of their reliance on and worship of money.
  • Family worship and time togetherDue to the lockdown in many countries and the closing of large church gatherings, many families are spending more time together and discovering or re-discovering the intimacy of worshipping together.
  • Church re-definedFinding their financial structure severely challenged, churches in many parts of the world may be forcibly weaned to a new understanding of church. Rather than defining church as a building or programs, they may be providentially encouraged to return to seeing church as ekklēsia—the family of brothers and sisters called and sent out by Jesus.
  • Priesthood of the believerAs small groups are forced to meet outside church buildings, a greater number of believers are realizing they must and can study the Scriptures without expert help. Many are being equipped or re-equipped to lead. On a related note, Pope Francis said that “people who cannot get to confession because of the coronavirus lockdown or another serious reason can go to God directly, be specific about their sins, request pardon and experience God’s loving forgiveness.”
  • Openness from churchesin a recent call, movement leaders from the Americas, Asia and Africa all mentioned that many existing institutional churches previously opposed to Disciple Making Movement approaches are showing a new openness and recognition that they can and should learn from what God is doing in these new/ancient expressions of church.
  • Witness in deedsMany disciples at the front lines in caring for and feeding the sick and hungry are letting their “light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) One leader in South Asia described disciples giving food to some former persecutors. This led to 11 men’s commitment to Christ.
  • Witness in powerGod is using Christians to miraculously bring food at times of greatest need, and to heal people through their prayers. This is opening hearts and minds to the gospel. One family in South Asia asked, “Are you angels or people, that you come and help us? We have had no food for three days and had no hope, and now you have come to give us food!”
  • Sacrifice—Christians risking their lives to serve medically and with food, water and sanitation offers a winsome testimony. They are the latest in a long line of Christians who have served sacrificially. During the plague in 260, Dionysius wrote: “Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy… Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead.”
  • Exposing InequityPower and wealth are becoming concentrated in an ever-smaller percentage of the world’s population. The pandemic is shining a light on these inequalities and creating anger and energy that could have a positive impact. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Matt. 4:18-19)
  • UnityJesus prayed that His disciples would “become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you love me.” (John 17:23) As Christians locally and globally band together to pray and serve, we see that the pressure of the crisis is a unifying factor for many of us.

In the short term, we see many contradictory dynamics during this time of COVID-19: greater connectivity alongside growing feelings of isolation, an upsurge in both generosity and hoarding, lower crime while many criminals are freed and a respite for nature in the midst of economic destruction.

In the longer term, we pray for significant and lasting change in the Church and the Great Commission community. As humans, we know that some will be changed and some will resist change.

We have been forcefully reminded that we are one global family of humanity. Let’s pray that we as Christ’s global body will be much wiser and more sacrificial in praying, giving and working together to see the gospel proclaimed throughout the world. To know how to partner with Church Planting Movements serving in the crisis you can write to [email protected].

Let’s pray that this crisis opens up new avenues of access to the unreached, through what we say and do, “by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.” (Rom. 15:18) The God who turned the crucifixion into the resurrection and used a ragged band of disciples to turn the world upside down, delights in turning crisis and tragedy into opportunities for redemption and life.

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

In the Age of the Coronavirus, Will We Go and Take the Land?

In the Age of the Coronavirus, Will We Go and Take the Land?

Confident in crisis. We all want to be this, right? This phrase was the title of a webinar well-known leadership guru, Michael Hyatt, offered not long ago. Speaking to business and non-profit leaders he said,
Two things are needed:  honesty to face the current reality, and faith you will prevail in the end.”

The world is a very different place than it was a few months ago. Borders are closed. Millions are quarantined, on lock-down or under stay-home orders. Jobs have been lost and the economy affected. The number of deaths we hear of in the daily news would have been shocking a few months ago. Now, we have come to expect to hear of rising death tolls.

How will we respond?

I’ve been drawn to Deuteronomy chapter one. I’m listening and asking God what He wants to say to us in this season. The Israelites missed God’s timing. They failed to immediately obey His direction. Their disobedience caused them to wander for decades rather than receiving God’s promised inheritance.

A Time of Unprecedented Opportunity

The COVID-19 pandemic creates unique and unprecedented opportunities for God’s kingdom to advance. With the many challenges comes a tremendous chance to multiply disciples in new ways. We have two options. We can step into this historic moment with bold confidence in God’s power to give us new kingdom ground. The sad, but very possible alternative, is we could miss the timing of God. We could end up wandering in a wilderness of fruitless efforts for years to come.

Crisis Leads to New Ministry

Few of us have ever faced a global pandemic. Our experience is limited. Like David, who prepared to fight a giant by first fighting a lion and a bear, we have been being prepared by God to face this. We’ve faced trouble and hardship and seen God come through.

Years ago, my husband and I were serving in the nation of Nepal. We’d fallen in love with this mountain kingdom and its people. Ministry was fruitful and growing. Our three kids were born there. We spoke the language well. The movement we had started was multiplying.

Life was good. Until the unexpected happened. We were hit with a crisis we didn’t expect and hadn’t planned for. Our visa processing in immigration stalled. Forced to leave the country, our family was thrown into uncertainty.

Shifting across the border to India, we found a temporary place to stay while trying to figure out what was happening. It was not easy. Confusing questions flooded our hearts. Why was this happening? Was this God’s will, or something the enemy had brought to stop our work?

There were no easy answers in that season of struggle. What did happen over time was that we began to see God’s perspective. We lifted our eyes to Him in trust and faith. He opened our eyes to great needs around us, to kingdom opportunities with which we had never considered engaging.

Through that crisis, God birthed new ministry. Eventually, we saw much greater fruit than we would have, had we stayed in Nepal, continuing to do what we had always done. The change was hard and not particularly welcome. Yet it did produce kingdom increase, both in us, and in the work we did. The key was allowing God to shift our perspective, to open our eyes to see the opportunity in the crisis.

God Ideas or Good Ideas?

Let’s take a deeper look at the passage in Deuteronomy 1. The Lord says to them in verse six, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” He tells Moses and the Israelites it is time to take possession of the Promised Land.

The Israelites come to Moses with a proposal. They suggest an exploratory trip. Further research is needed before committing to God’s command, they surmise. Moses says in verse 23, “The idea seemed good to me; so I selected 12…” That is where the problem began. Was sending the spies to do their “research” a good idea, or a God idea?

Even so, the 12 go in. They return and report that the land is good. On that matter, they are all in agreement.
Two of them, Joshua and Caleb, suggest they move forward declaring, “The Lord our God is giving it to us!

The other 10 think otherwise. They are focused on the giants…the many difficulties. None of the 12 seem to recall that God has given a command, not a suggestion.

In verse 26 we read the tragic words, “You were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God.” The majority opinion was fear. Instead of obedience to God’s command, they fixated on the giants. They resisted, rebelled and refused to trust God given the problems at hand.

God gave them another chance. In verse 29, Moses exhorts the Israelites. “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid…”
Yet again, they chose wrongly and refused to trust God.

The outcome? We know the story. God tells them they will wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Hearing this, they grieve and try to enter. It’s too late. They missed the timing of God. Badly defeated they start their long 40-year wilderness journey.

How does this story relate to us as missionaries, pastors, and Christian leaders facing COVID-19?

We are at a unique time in history. True. Yet the command of Jesus to go and make disciples has not changed.  The Great Commission is not a time-sensitive command. We are only to stop when the job is completed! How we fulfill this command during COVID-19 may be quite different, but the task has not changed.

Opportunities the Pandemic Creates

1. We have an unprecedented amount of extra time on our hands.

During the shutdowns, we are stuck at home. Unable to go to the gym or to social functions, we have time available. Many have lost jobs or had to leave the cities where they work. They have returned to their villages. How can we make use of this extra time?

One of the most important pre-requisites to launching movements is extraordinary prayer. Could we engage in greater prayer for the lost than ever before? Who could we mobilize to join us in prayer for new movements among the nations?

2. This is an unusual season of openness.

I read that both Prince Charles and the Prime Minister of England had COVID-19.  It struck me as I absorbed that fact. This sickness is impacting every stratum of society. No one is immune to its effect. The virus unites us in need and crisis like little has done in recent history. Fear, hunger, desperation and sickness create an unusual openness to the good news of the kingdom.

Loren Cunningham, in his Easter message to the Youth With A Mission family, stated, “There will be a time of great openness to the gospel…”

When all else in our lives is stripped away, when life feels uncertain, we are open to considering new things. We are ready to hear the message of those with hope to spare. Spiritual conversations flow naturally as we look for gospel bridges in this crisis.

3. The pandemic creates a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate the reality of the kingdom.

Jesus commanded His disciples in Luke 10 to go and find the person of peace. They were to heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. This virus doesn’t prevent us from doing that! In Matt. 22:39, our Lord told us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” We have amazing opportunities to obey this command today and to demonstrate kindness and compassion to those in need around us. May God’s people clearly show the reality of His kingdom in this season and the lost be drawn to the light of Christ.

4. Social distancing creates an increased longing for community.

People are “starving” for social interaction and community. Will we provide it for them? Will we engage and enter the hole this virus has created? As we offer genuine, authentic community, be it virtually or in person, the unreached will be drawn to it. There has never been such a great opportunity as this to invite people into community and fellowship.

5. Extreme acceleration in understanding and usage of online platforms

There are wonderful opportunities to use online media for training disciple-makers, like the Zume course or my own Getting Started in Disciple Making Movements course (see for details).
The same is true for evangelism and disciple-making.

Hundreds of thousands of people are learning how to work from home using online platforms like Zoom, Teams, Google Hangout, and more. The old, the young, the poor and the rich are all being forced to use new technology for general communication.

This creates new opportunities to start groups in restricted access nations, with the unreached.  Social media and Facebook Ads can be used to find Persons of Peace. Media2Movements has created some excellent training on this.

It is time to let go of the limiting belief that the only way to make disciples among the unreached is when we are in close physical proximity to them. We must embrace new wine and new wineskins for launching movements of disciples.

Five Things We Need to Be Willing to Do 

1. Be willing to learn and grow in new skills.

This season forces us to step into new ways of operating. Does praying for the sick and believing for a miracle feel uncomfortable? Our situation demands it.  Maybe technology is intimidating.  Initiating a Zoom call may feel like a mountain to climb, especially if you are a field-based worker who hates sitting in an office! We must be willing to learn, shift and grow.

2. Be willing to think creatively.

Overcoming the giants in this season means we need to innovate. Receiving God’s new models and ways will be key to multiplying disciples in this season. Are you stuck in old methods? Doing things the way they have always been done? Is your imagination joining with God’s creativity to consider new ways of working? Are you willing to experiment with new ways of doing evangelism and disciple-making? Things you’ve never tried before?

3. Be willing to see with eyes of faith.

It is often our default to consider what we can’t do before thinking of what we can. Ask God to give you a fresh perspective…His perspective. There are likely many things you cannot do that you used to do. The opposite is also true. What new things can you do that you didn’t before? Do what you can. Take a faith-filled step into something new.

4. Be willing to take risks.

It feels risky to do things in unproven ways. I had a conversation recently with someone about starting Whatsapp groups to study the Bible. “Has anyone ever started a movement using this method?” they asked. “Not yet! But maybe you’ll be the first!” I replied. We’ve never faced a time like this. New things will happen for those who take risks of faith.

5. Be willing to collaborate.

Lastly, we must be willing to work together like never before. Territorialism and denominationalism have never helped launch movements. Who could you partner with? Join your strengths with theirs? Learn from?

As we join our hearts, minds, talents and treasures together, much becomes possible.

Don’t Miss This!

Reference was made earlier to Youth With A Mission’s founder, Loren Cunningham. As he completed his Easter message, he exhorted his mission, “Don’t miss this!

The Israelites missed God. They could have entered, but they did not.

Let us rise and go in.  We will reap the great harvest of souls God has prepared for us through this pandemic. Disciples must be made, movements launched and great multiplication of God’s kingdom must come in this time. Will we go in—like Joshua and Caleb—with our hearts on fire and burning with a passion for God?

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Whether Ebola Or Covid-19 God’s People Move Toward, Not Away From, Suffering

Whether Ebola Or Covid-19 God’s People Move Toward, Not Away From, Suffering

Note: The Ebola virus hit West Africa—primarily Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone—in 2014. The case-fatality rate (CFR) was 40% (By way of comparison COVID-19’s CFR is currently estimated between 2–10%). In August 2014, the World Health Organization reported that 10% of the dead had been healthcare workers.34

2014 and the years that followed were a devastating time for Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. The Ebola outbreak created havoc.

The situation demanded that we come together as a team. This teamwork was not just within the Church, but we also reached out to our neighbors. In Sierra Leone, the majority are Muslims. So together, we investigated the situation critically and concluded that it was a real threat. Once we understood what the virus was all about and how it was transmitted, we did our level best to see how we could contain the virus and how we could educate our people. We did presentations in the churches and in the mosques. We were among the first to alert our people to the danger and how to respond.

We scheduled days of fasting and prayer in the churches and the mosques. We were interceding for the community, and for the nation at large, to stand in the gap between the living and the dead. Where this virus was affecting people, we stepped in because that’s how kingdom people think. It’s not just, you know, the Lord can protect my family. It’s Lord, use this in the community, and help me represent you well to both. Lord, please stop it and restore what has been damaged by it. We were advocating God’s people go, not just the second mile, but go really down the road and give themselves to fasting and prayer that Ebola would be checked. We asked them to make it known to their neighbors that they were praying.

Together we encouraged people to trust God, to ask God for healing and deliverance. Despite rumors to the contrary, we were not in denial that Ebola was a real threat. We tried to understand the pattern, the behavior of the disease, how it was transmitted, and how to contain it. We were able to communicate that across the board with our leaders. Then we started to get to the public to educate people in churches.

This education process was key to controlling the spread of the disease and dealing with the fear factor. Without information, people were responding with tremendous fear—there was extreme fear of getting the disease and dying. So we had people making public service announcements explaining the details of what the condition was and how it spread. We also encouraged people to follow the prevention guidelines and to trust God’s ability to save them from this plague.

We had a lot of discussions about customs and habits and realized that we had to make changes. One of the most significant changes was how we bury our dead. When someone dies here, the custom has been that the family washes the body to get it ready for burial. When a Muslim person who died was regarded as an influential person, the family would take that water and wash their children in it. It was believed to pass on to the children some of that outstanding person’s spirit and power. This practice accelerated the infection rate. We were able to train people to take steps to protect themselves and the practice was stopped.

We had disciples who delivered masks, gloves and bleach, along with useful hygiene information that helped slow transmission.

We had multiple church-planters scattered in rural communities. We re-commissioned them to distribute public information and organize community service and prayer groups. We really prayed for the nation. We prayed for those in authority. We prayed that God would give them wisdom in how to handle the situation.

We used young people who were involved in drama to put on dramatic presentations about dealing with Ebola and overcoming fear. We also sponsored a songwriting contest that addressed the situation. We encouraged young people to write simple Scripture-based songs about Ebola and about having faith. Then we taught the best songs to people. We also had poetry contests.

The Ebola crisis had an impact on the momentum of the gospel. Historically we were seeing 2000 new churches planted each year using the DMM process. That’s an extraordinary number. But, when Ebola hit, that number dropped to around 200. The magnitude of Ebola’s impact was to put a virtual stop to people’s willingness to engage with others. And the whole idea of Disciple Making Movements is that thegospel spreads through natural networks, and so does Ebola. So we saw a 90% reduction in productivity. Ebola appeared to be dismantling, at least temporarily, those networks.

When the whole process was over, a lot of people gave their lives to Jesus. Remember that we were working closely together. We saw disciples moving toward trouble and not fleeing from it. Church-planters led the way in serving the government, serving their neighbors regardless of their religious beliefs. People saw how the Christians responded to the crisis and were persuaded to believe. Most of the people we are working with today came out of that terrible time. They were changed by what they had seen in disciples.

One church-planter was doing some substantial outreach and volunteered with Doctors Without Borders (aka, Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF). Unfortunately he worked closely with an expatriate MSF worker who was sick. Through that person, he also got the disease and died.  One guy volunteered to drive an ambulance for MSF. As a result of his frequent contact with the sick, he contracted the disease himself and died.

A lot of our Christ followers were very courageous. Despite seeing fellow disciples die, they stepped up and volunteered. They served as drivers delivering medical supplies and food. They also helped the government by going to outlying communities to carry checks to the locals. In addition to MSF, disciples volunteered to help other NGOs throughout the country.

We did some creative things that helped in reducing the level of fear. We started telling jokes that involved Ebola. We were intentionally trying to help people overcome their fear. One of the jokes was about a guy who was supposed to pay his rent. But because of the crisis he had no money. Then he saw the landlord coming and knew he would be demanding payment. What he did was drape a blanket over his head. He was shaking and said to the landlord, “I’m sorry. But I’ve been sick.” The landlord said, “I’m here for my money.” The tenant told his landlord, “I’m sorry, I have just been diagnosed. I have Ebola. But I have your money here, come and take your money.” Alarmed, the landlord said, “I don’t need my money now. You can pay me later.” And he ran away. So we said, “You no longer have to run away from your landlord because you have no money. He will run away from you.”

Because of the cooperation within our communities, cooperation with the government and NGOs, and because of God’s intervention we saw the spread of Ebola stopped in its tracks.

The fact is that we did not allow our fear of the virus to stop us from trusting God and doing everything, everything we could to be a witness.

God was aware that Ebola would come. He had redemptive purposes he wanted to be worked out. We see some of those results already. The same is true for the COVID-19 pandemic. What lessons can we learn from how God moved in West Africa that apply to our current situation? 

Because we believe God is all about building His kingdom and intends to involve every disciple in what He is doing, it makes sense to ask, “God, what do you want me to do?” and “How can I move toward trouble and not away from it?” When we do that, we create irresistible influence. This influence flows out of belief that the kingdom is not exclusive. It’s about everybody and everything.

Obviously, as good members of the community, we need to follow through with government guidelines about social distancing and voluntary isolation. However, there are still plenty of ways disciples can respond. We can donate blood, we can find places to volunteer to deliver food, serve the homeless, etc. We can prayer walk, and as we pass people let them know from a safe distance, “I’m praying the virus would be removed and it wouldn’t affect you.”

So, whatever the crisis, we need to be the people who respond with compassion and courage to the call issued by Jesus, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you.”

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Six Ways to Bear Witness in a Pandemic

Six Ways to Bear Witness in a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is a time of much fear: fear of hunger, loneliness, lockdowns, poverty, even death. It’s also a time of loss. Weddings are canceled. Graduations are missed. Church buildings are empty on Sunday mornings, and many businesses are closed. At HOPE International, we’ve been asking the question:

Amid this fear and uncertainty, how do we bear witness to Christ and His Kingdom?

Thankfully, we can look to the example of Jesus to see how He reacted in the face of doubt, loss, and hardship.

Abide in God’s Word.

When Jesus was tempted in the desert (Matthew 4), He turned to Scripture. Sometimes God’s Word is our only solution, our only rest, our only response. May we encourage one another to abide in the Word of God and find our strength within. May we also find creative ways to share its hope and truth with others.

Pause for prayer.

In Matthew 14:22-27, after miraculously feeding thousands, Jesus sent His disciples ahead so He could spend time alone with His Father. From this time of prayer, He saw that the disciples were caught in a raging storm and met them on the water. We are often busy with good things, but now is an opportunity to pause, pray, and focus on what’s most important.

Look beyond ourselves.

While hanging on the cross, amid His own agonizing suffering, Jesus looked down, saw His mother, and cared for her needs by designating John as her son (John 19:25-27). Each of us experiences these challenges differently, but let’s keep our eyes open for ways we can reflect the love of Jesus to others.

Care for physical needs.

In John 21:5, Jesus met the disciples at the edge of the sea. They’d spent the entire night fishing but caught nothing. Jesus saw that they were hungry and tired and provided miraculously. How can we follow His example to help others meet their basic needs?

Encourage one another.

After His resurrection, Jesus repeatedly encouraged followers in their moment of hopelessness. He met them where they were, in their isolation and despair, to provide hope and peace (see John 20:11-22, Luke 24:13-34).

Show humility & grace.

In John 13, in the critical context of His Last Supper, Jesus washed everyone’s feet. Even Peter, who would deny Him. Even Judas, who would betray Him. Their feet were dirty, and He washed them. A tangible example for us in this season: Our church partners are distributing food to all who are in need, not only their members. You know when you’re watching a live soccer match? You’re afraid because anything could happen to your team. But after you’ve won 1-0, when you’re re-watching highlights, you don’t have that fear—you may even smile because you know your team won.

It’s the same for us now, despite the uncertainty brought by the coronavirus pandemic. We know the outcome. Jesus is not overwhelmed; He is not surprised—He has already won.

So, as we continue to bear witness to the Kingdom in this season, may our eyes remain fixed on Jesus, the King. He is our hope, our peace, and our victory.

Each month, we send out a list of prayer requests from around the world to a group of dedicated supporters who partner with us through faithful prayer. Will you join us?

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Three Things We are Doing in the Face of COVID-19

Three Things We are Doing in the Face of COVID-19

Dear Colleagues and Mission Frontiers Readers,

Given the timing for editing a production like MF, by the time you are reading this much will be known about the outcomes and results and implications of the COVID-19 crisis. As I am writing this, however, it is mid-April and we are still in the midst of social distancing and shelter-at-home mandates.

This edition of MF is trying to describe how we think about and practice “mission” in a time like this. Many have already been reflecting on these questions, and by the time you get this, there will have been many more. We don’t want to simply add to the volume of ideas and reflections. Instead, we are trying to compile things that may not be discussed in other settings. In particular, we want to bring you a sense of what is happening at the edges, at the frontiers, among the least reached.

Since I have an article devoted to that topic, I won’t say more here. Instead, I want to just briefly touch on what we at Frontier Ventures and WCIU are beginning to think about. I will refer to three things:


1 COVID Rapid Innovation

We have begun an initiative we are calling COVID Rapid Innovation. This is a product of a collaboration between FV’s Winter Launch Lab (WLL), an FV initiative called Health for All Nations (HFAN, which is headed up by FV member and WCIU Board chair, Mike Soderling), and FV and WCIU member, Lowell Bliss.

COVID Rapid Innovation is following the Peer Consultation process, developed by the Kansas Leadership Center ( The process is called Quick Response Innovation (QRI). Our initiative “aims” this peer consultation process especially at leaders who are facing unprecedented challenges in the light of COVID-19, helping them  to see their challenge and the issues at stake from new perspectives, leading to new insights, next steps and emerging solutions to complex challenges in this crisis season.

Find out more at:


2 Short Term Immediate Help to Agencies and Movements at the Front Edge

Just two days before I wrote this we finalized setting aside funds from both FV and WCIU to be given immediately to organizations working to respond to one of the issues you will hear more about in this MF edition, an issue “upstream” from COVID and creating a barrier to stemming the spread of the virus: hunger.

We are focusing our funding on projects serving the most vulnerable, giving special emphasis to least reached peoples and those in urban slums. In these contexts, while the danger of COVID is very real, people are faced with the decision: do I (even if it were possible!) practice social distancing and not go to work (if I have it) and face the certainty of hunger and the high likelihood of starvation (I am not being dramatic here), in order to avoid the possibility of catching a virus that might kill me or my family?

As you will hear, there are leaders serving in such contexts who are seeking to bring innovative solutions and facing risks themselves as they do so. 


3 Virtual Franciscans?

St. Francis and his comrades became beggars, going about door to door on behalf of others. One of my colleagues here at WCIU,
Viv Grigg, wrote me to suggest a vision of raising up a new movement of such Franciscans, seeking to raise funds for the poor, for the most vulnerable among the least reached and especially in the cities.

While social distancing suggests this would be fraught with challenges if taken literally, I began to think: what if we raised up a band of “virtual Franciscans”, who instead of going door to door, went Facebook to Facebook, Twitter to Twitter, Instagram to Instagram, in a virtual wave of “go-fund-me” style “begging” for the most vulnerable?

This would include all sorts of initiatives, not controlled by any central organization, though many (including us here) may well launch versions of it themselves. Just do it.

I will be encouraging more of us in FV and WCIU to launch into this as well. Maybe by the time you read this there will be rumors of what we are up to!

In my own way I started yesterday, on behalf of those I know in South Asia and the Horn of Africa, leading movements to Jesus among unreached peoples and doing their best to respond with other leaders to serve the hungry and to prevent the spread of the virus.

More about them in my article!


Since I cannot hazard a guess as to what the state of the COVID-19 crisis may be by the time this goes to print, I want to end with something that might provide a word of wisdom regardless of the detailed state we find ourselves in at that time (or, at this time as you read). This word seems especially fitting as we all seek to discern how to respond:

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you…that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” (2 Thess.1:11 NIV)

Prayerfully, Kevin Higgins

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Post-Disaster Sustainability and Spiritual Multiplication

24:14 Goal Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (66 months)

Post-Disaster Sustainability and Spiritual Multiplication

When responding to a large-scale crisis or helping people recover from a disaster, how can we maximize fruit? How can we maximize the practical support we give them? And what principles can increase urgent-needs response, sustainable recovery, and multiplication of believer groups in an integrated way?

In 2011 when this article was first written, we had two teams in Southeast Asia which had multiplied to at least three generations of believer groups among “Cousins.” This is the name we use for followers of the majority religion where we serve and they were a group that frequently responded to disasters. They had served in response to four major disasters in addition to some minor ones. Through their experience, they identified fruitful post-disaster response principles. In April 2020, I edited this article to increase relevance for those wrestling with the global crisis caused by COVID-19. I added principles we have learned from more teams in many more situations, doing disaster recovery while also multiplying small groups to many generations.

These principles have guided practical crisis response and post-disaster recovery while at the same time nurturing spiritual multiplication. They empower teams to make creative decisions in the field, in response to local needs, without having to check back with their bosses. These principles provide integration and coordination between field workers in diverse locations without paralyzing community facilitators or cell-church planters.
They provide sustainable recovery for disaster victims and include spiritual recovery, as indicated by multiplication of believer groups.

Many of these principles become most applicable following the first weeks after a disaster (when victims are most vulnerable and desperately need practical help quickly). We transition to these principles as soon as possible. This enables sustainable disaster recovery, integrated with sustainable multiplication of small groups in multiple generations.

1. Core Team

Who are your closest co-workers, whom you trust, who are also effective in post-disaster response? You cannot help people beyond the effective reach of your core team. However, if your core team members have already proved they can multiply other leaders, who multiply other leaders, your core team has a much greater reach.

Take a moment to evaluate your core team’s capacity to respond to this crisis.

  • How strong are relational ties within your core team? Do your core team members each have their own core teams? How strong are relational ties in their core teams? Will they support one another under the stress of responding to a crisis?
  • What is the bridging (connecting) capacity of your core team? Have they shown ability to connect to people who can help them select the neediest people who should be prioritized? Have they shown the capacity to connect to find available resources?
  • Disaster response needs leaders who can take initiative, innovate, and activate others. Can your core team members do these things, or facilitate those who can?

2. Local Groupings

Most of those who respond compassionately to a crisis or disaster serve individuals. We learned to instead help disaster victims form and solidify into need-based local groups. Our core team (and those they activate) serve only local groups. Groups are more effective in recovery because through cooperation in groups, a much smaller budget is needed for recovery. Cooperation adds value at low cost.

After a volcano erupted and lava covered many homes, one new chainsaw kept six men working to remove fallen trees when they formed a local group and cooperated to divide jobs and shifts using the chainsaw. Everyone needed help with clean water when a heavy ash fall resulted from a volcanic eruption, and the wells were filled with lava, but a local group decided which of its members were the weakest and needed help first. They decided which families were close enough that they could harmoniously build and share a tank to store clean water during the recovery period.

Neighbors whose houses were levelled during an earthquake were helped to build their own foundations, helped with reinforcement bar and sand and cement and the design. But they were required to form a group and help the one widow among them, in order to get access to these resources. This resulted in much time in dialog among them about spiritual values. Over a period of months, some of the people in this foundation-building group were helped to form a new business making concrete building blocks with hand presses. This work gave them income for food, and for every truckload of sand they formed into concrete blocks, they could set aside 500 blocks for their own houses. From these need-based groups, small groups of seekers emerged, which later became small groups of believers discussing together the Bible and how they were applying it.

Groups are also the best place by far to begin spiritually transformative dialog.[1] Group members support each other’s search for meaning and emotional recovery. They validate new means to find spiritual peace in the midst of uncertainty. Spiritual and emotional issues need to be discussed in small groups of victims who form because they are comfortable with each other.

In the early months of the COVID-19 global crisis, many in our country have lost their jobs and their incomes. One of my core team members is responsible for 30 people in two houses. Another is responsible for 13 people in his own house. Each must give attention to his own family’s health, for they are also victims. But they have pre-existing virtual groups and some new groups. They have already activated several local groups to distribute food to the hungry.

3. An Urgent-Needs Phase Transitions to a Recovery Phase

Disasters have an initial urgent-needs phase that may be extended if the crisis is hard to define, multi-dimensional, and/or recurring, as in the case of COVID-19. The needs during this period should be defined and an assessment made: which needs can be met by the victims themselves, and which could be met by others? With COVID-19 we determined that just three weeks into the crisis, almost everyone among the lower-paid members in almost every area in our country was having trouble buying food. These hand-to-mouth wage-earners have no savings and struggle economically if they miss just three weeks of work. Even farmers are having trouble because they cannot sell their products. These are going to waste, for buyers don’t have money to buy the products.

During this urgent-needs phase, we are setting up distribution systems (including volunteers) that use a minimum of middlemen. These reduce food costs, bypassing traditional markets (closed because they bring too many people too close together), and enforce high standards of food handling (few people handle raw food, and those who do use masks, gloves, and other protective equipment). We are negotiating with suppliers to provide raw food at lower costs in return for getting larger orders. Since people’s savings in densely populated areas are almost used up, costs must be negotiated to lower levels and volunteers used – toward the goal of simply keeping people eating. However, all potential food donors are also losing money in this period.

This points to our need to transition to a recovery phase as soon as possible. We recognize that most factors are out of our control, but we have begun to discuss a few things over which we do have some control.

4. Long-Term Thinking

Most of those responding compassionately to a crisis or disaster think mainly about the immediate needs of victims. They tend to shift only slowly to thinking about long-term solutions. Leaders of disaster responders must facilitate discussions of cases to help volunteers think further ahead, in order to discover longer-term needs and solutions.

For example, we wouldn’t help a group upgrade to wood walls rather than bamboo in a temporary shelter they would soon leave behind. We would focus instead on buying them woodworking tools and a simple shop so they could get their business and income restarted. Paradoxically, our determination to look beyond the empty stomachs of today provides more compassionate long-term help.

In the spiritual arena, long-term thinking is multi-generational thinking. Our approaches must foster the discovery of local leaders who have spiritual sensitivity and thirst. We look for those who not only make personal progress in small Bible discussion groups but who also reveal capacity as replicators and multipliers. We want to find those whom God will grow into partners for raising up future generations of spiritual leaders.

We have tried to imagine new jobs that will emerge because of new demands in the recovering economic system when that begins. For example, we are envisioning motorcycles equipped with racks to carry the maximum amount of raw food at the lowest cost and make drop-offs to houses.

Clearly our spiritual mentoring will have to grow stronger in utilizing social media.

5. Victims as Solution-Finders and Laborers

Most of those responding compassionately to a crisis or disaster view themselves as givers and see victims as receivers. In contrast, we aim to find leaders among the victims. Local influencers emerge after a crisis and can help organize the victims so they take an active role in the recovery of their own community. This makes recovery possible on a lower budget. It also strengthens victims emotionally after a big hit and loss to their self-esteem and hope. The most diligent and responsible victims will be most likely to facilitate more benefits for more victims. For that reason, selection of which victims to partner with is important. Generally speaking, local people themselves know which among them will be more effective during post-disaster uncertainty and can choose them. They realize that the leaders needed for responding to a crisis or disaster must be active leaders, not the symbolic leaders who might have been in place prior to a disaster.

In one area covered by deep volcanic ash that brought all farming to a halt, disaster victims made 2,200 handicraft products during a three-week period. Initially, people from outside the community did product design, training of workers, and marketing. But the organizers among the victims also contributed to success, under the supervision of a person who lived just outside the affected area and gave volunteer time. Five villages of victims each chose four to eight representatives best suited to receive training. They chose people who not only would produce good products for their fellow villagers but also would ensure quality control and select and train other villagers to produce these products. From these initial trainees, the most competent trainers and organizers emerged. The natural center of production also became clear: one village that was well organized and motivated. All trainings were held in that village, and products were delivered by group leaders from each of the other villages for payment. The macro system in the area became more self-sufficient, reducing its reliance on the outsiders who initiated the handicrafts project.

After an earthquake, communities were able to build concrete 3m x 6m house cores for US$600 each. This very low budget was possible because the people organized themselves into groups of eight former homeowners, pooling their labor and motivation to build the eight houses together. Groups identified the weaker members of the community who most deserved their help. They had only one trained carpenter, but one was sufficient to oversee the building of three neighborhoods of eight house cores each, using the same simple design. Through cooperative groups, which mobilized the volunteer ideas and labor of victims, all donation money could be focused on purchasing cement, sand, and reinforcement bars. This allowed them to rebuild earthquake-resistant house cores.

From a spiritual vantage point, seekers of God can be mobilized quickly to gather like-minded others who desire spiritual and emotional recovery. By using a simple set of questions that stimulate local people in discovery of biblical truth on topics that meet their needs, natural leaders can be mobilized quickly as group facilitators.

6. Observe—Question— Add

Most of those responding compassionately to a crisis or disaster give pre-packaged solutions. Instead, we observe and question to activate victims to fully describe their challenges. We then help them come up with several alternate solutions and combine those solutions to find the best solution set. Through this process, they develop solution sets that are cheaper and better fitted to the challenges and they are more motivated to keep pursuing the solutions. For these reasons, their own solution sets have a higher likelihood of sustainability.

When responding to a volcanic eruption, I began discussions with victims at a refugee camp, when it was still too dangerous to enter the area. I mistakenly put forward the idea of making building blocks from sand that had been expelled during the eruption. In response they identified reasons it wouldn’t work, such as that the sand had too much sulfur in it. The imported idea failed. When I could visit the area with them, I observed raw products made following the disaster. They preferred two inexpensive motorized tools to a single nice one. Because it was their own idea, they could bear without complaint the negative factor that the cheaper tools were heavier. I had thought a large machine would be needed to move the raw logs onto trucks. They decided teaming up to carry them was cheaper.

In spiritual dialog, we observe and ask about victims’ needs. To their existing spiritual knowledge we then add fresh spiritual insights fitted to their needs.

7. Transformative Dialog

Most of those responding compassionately to a crisis or disaster separate physical needs from emotional and spiritual needs. They usually serve physical and surface-level emotional needs first, then much later serve deeper emotional and spiritual needs. Often, however, the window of spiritual openness has closed by then. Instead, we view people holistically and start early with emotionally/spiritually transformative dialog. We do this in ways that combine naturally with practical caregiving. This reduces victims’ grief paralysis effect and increases their participation in their own recovery.

In agricultural recovery groups, an integrated transformative dialog must affirm God’s sovereignty and care for His creation, including His care for people. It must at the same time wrestle with their questions as to possible reasons He has allowed their suffering. A second transformative dialog can help them see themselves in Adam’s lineage as vice-regents of God’s creation. God has entrusted to them management of His grace, expressed as natural resources in creation. He intends their management to provide for their own needs and to channel that grace to others. A third transformative dialog discusses the return of Jesus to usher in God’s complete creation recovery. All creation now eagerly awaits this new creation.

“Cousins” have an integrated worldview, so a majority-Cousin area must be served with an integrated rather than a secular approach. Rather than Jesus’ followers serving them as secularists, an approach true to the convictions of neither party, we look for bridging zones for transformative dialog. These dialogs build off common ground, going back to the common belief in Adam and Abraham. Such verbal dialogs usually draw on cultural proverbs and paradigms, Quranic verses, and verses from the Taurat, Zabur, and Injil. In some cases, victims desire to read and discuss selected samples of their sources of strength and faith.

Forming groups to address community development challenges is a critical first step toward having spiritual dialog among a small number of people who have a prior relationship and trust each other for mutual support. Many pre-believer groups formed to tackle practical recovery challenges welcome the infusion of transformative dialog as part of the recovery group’s agenda. Many pre-believer groups, formed to support practical recovery, grow in faith and eventually become small groups of believers.

8. Team Meetings that Clarify Operational Principles

Most management systems after disasters are too bureaucratic and slow. At the opposite extreme, some are too autonomous, wasteful and lacking coordination and direction.

Our leaders from disaster response and recovery teams initially meet weekly for two hours to listen to each other (if distances are a factor, these may transition to bimonthly meetings after some months). The coordination meetings have four purposes: 1) to gain better understanding of recovery challenges through multiple peoples’ lenses; 2) to link resources and synchronize effort; 3) to provide cross-training in a relational context; and 4) to clarify principles that undergird the field decisions of individual facilitators of recovery. This last purpose allows facilitators to make decisions in the field, knowing they harmonize with broader principles of the team, without being delayed by having to get permission from supervisors on each decision. They evaluate together, then revise their plans for effective service.

Case studies of spiritual progress are presented by more experienced facilitators, to provide learning opportunities for others. Spiritually oriented challenges can be discussed and solutions sought together while at the same time reinforcing the principles behind them.

During the COVID-19 global crisis, virtual meetings of team leaders will need to be a higher priority, with skills developed in this sphere.

9. Innovation

We encourage not just putting back the pieces so that recovery returns things to normalcy. We aim for innovative solutions that potentially will improve conditions via incremental evaluations and adjustments.

Trial and error is used on a small scale to test best possible solutions. A period of great loss might need to be followed by carefully guided paradigm change, or transition to find better means for supporting the goals of the community. Methods of building, means of getting drinking water, and the type of crops or agricultural methods chosen might need to be revised in the most optimal direction possible, in the period after great setbacks. Centuries-old agricultural methods and crop and fertilizer choices might have reduced soil quality or market value and need to be revisited. Experimentation on a small scale with multiple comparative case studies should be encouraged and funded.

Innovation is risky. One part of loving people and God is helping to bear the cost of innovation for longer-term compassionate solutions. Victims who increase their faith can embrace innovation, expecting God to guide.

During this COVID-19 crisis, we will need to prioritize innovation in urban areas, because of greater needs there. However, many people are likely to return to their parents’ homes in villages and smaller cities, where food might be easier to come by.

10. Multicultural Synergy

Most workers should be local or near-local people, but mixing in selected foreigners might make an optimal balance of team composition and roles for the recovery period. Outsiders are needed because impoverished local conditions require linking agents who bring in outside resources and ideas. Local people can operate more economically and with less confusion. Yet having the right kind and amount of foreign involvement provides an added advantage, particularly after a crisis. Outside perspective and connections are helpful during the chaos of crisis recovery—for ideas and for connection to resources.

The key is capable field leaders and community facilitators who can build and synchronize multicultural teams. These capable field leaders and facilitators must be of the type who can serve amidst chaos. To be successful, outsider or near-culture community facilitators need local organizers who are flexible in relating to outsiders. These are often not the same people as community leaders previously chosen by communities to protect the status quo in traditional cultures. Community facilitators must be careful to avoid isolating local organizers and to win endorsement for them (and for joint programs) from longer-term status-quo leaders.

Disaster victims have lost much and have few options to improve their future. We must be, and pray for, people of integrity, honesty, and wholesome character. This is critical to minimize negative emotions often felt by victims. Loving God and others, finding local organizers, and promoting godliness in victims supports effective recovery.

11. Fruit-based Management

Most disaster responses focus on the helpers’ activities. We need, rather, to focus on outcomes for the beneficiaries: the actual outputs, outcomes and impacts that help them. Markers of fruit, and progress toward fruit, help us discern the right direction and then evaluate and improve service. Establishing a culture of discussing matters openly and constructively reduces fear of criticism and increases fruit production.

Markers of fruit in disaster recovery include 1) the number of people eating, with homes, with their children in school, who are healthy; 2) the number of people working again; 3) the number of need-based groups formed to pursue practical solutions; and 4) the number of need-based groups who have added transformative dialog and are making spiritual progress. Meetings of community facilitators should clarify fruit markers that indicate short-term progress, building cumulatively in the right direction. Team meetings should periodically evaluate progress toward those markers and revise plans to make incremental improvements.

Spiritually, time should be taken periodically to celebrate partial progress made and give thanks to the Lord who provided that progress. Dialog helps us center our efforts to produce fruit around the source and owner of all fruit.


Fruitful teams support sustainable disaster recovery integrated with sustainable Church Planting Movements. They orient themselves around a set of principles and empower their field workers to make decisions and act based on alignment. These eleven sustainability principles have been observed in the most fruitful teams involved in such ministries.

  1. For more information on spiritually transformative dialog, see Core Skills of Movement Leaders: Repeating Patterns from Generation to Generation, by Trevor Larsen and the Focus on Fruit Team. Also see Focus on Fruit! Movement Case Studies & Fruitful Practices, by Trevor Larsen and a Fruitful Band of Brothers, both available at

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Galmi Hospital Prepares in the Face of COVID-19

Galmi Hospital Prepares in the Face of COVID-19

Galmi Hospital, a medical ministry of SIM International, has been bracing for the impact of COVID-19 and sadly, their plans must now become reality.

Galmi’s chief medical officer Dr Anne-Sophie Rowcroft says it’s been a mercy that Niger has remained free from documented COVID-19 cases for so long. But now, with the first case in Niamey confirmed on March 19, the hospital staff will make those planned changes to their work and ministry.

Anne-Sophie defined the key questions.  We’re asking, “How do we care for each other? How do we care for our staff? How do we care for our patients?”

The 180-bed hospital, which has 235 local staff, eight surgical residents, 15 SIM mission workers including 11 missionary doctors, is actively readying their facilities and staff through defensive measures. As a result of Niger president Mahamadou Issoufou’s precautionary directives, the hospital has moved into the ‘red zone’ of operations.

Until recently, the hospital was able to produce 100 litres of oxygen a minute with their oxygen plant – a vital commodity given that COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system. But the plant broke down a few weeks ago, leaving only six oxygen concentrators at their disposal. Each of these produces just 10 litres a minute.

Repairs to the oxygen plant cost 4,000 USD, which is a significant financial burden given the extra expenses the hospital is facing as they purchase other medical necessities like thermometers, gloves, bleach and examination gowns.

They’re attempting to collect additional oxygen concentrators, and these are still relatively expensive at about 1,600 USD each, but Galmi is not the only hospital in Niger looking these sought-after resources.

These financial concerns are stark, but Anne-Sophie remains hopeful because she trusts in God as her source of comfort and the world’s source of provision.

The reality in our work is that we have to be very dependent on God in prayer, because our work is so often surpassing what we can do. We have a huge volume of patients every day and limited resources – it’s a regular part of life here in Galmi. Certainly, the shutdown of airports takes away that feeling of control, that feeling of I have options, the feeling of “I can leave the country when I want.” Some of us have been reflecting on 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, which talks about how in our weakness, God’s power is able to really show through. And we can boast in our weakness and boast in the greatness of God and what He will do in this situation.

As Anne-Sophie and the team at Galmi Hospital have considered how to prepare the medical staff to deal with the potential spread of the virus, they have focused on education. Thorough handwashing has taken priority, and a worker has been stationed at the front of the hospital to ensure each person who comes into the building follows the hygienic guidelines.

Galmi Hospital has chosen to separate anyone with the basic symptoms of COVID-19—a fever and a cough—and treat them outdoors. Fortunately, Anne-Sophie said, “In the last couple of days since we’ve implemented that, no one has presented those symptoms, so that’s been quite nice.”

Each day, Galmi’s outpatient clinic sees around 200 to 300 people, so their waiting room exceeds the government’s recommended 50-person limit. The staff is attempting to decrease the large gatherings while still providing Christ-like care and necessary medical treatment.

However, before the Galmi Hospital team restricts the number of people gathering by reducing routine services, they want to supply their patients with sufficient medication and treatment. They intend to see patients with chronic conditions, like diabetes and heart diseases, over the next two weeks, providing them with enough medication to last three months rather than the standard one.

The hospital is working with the government to announce this policy to the community over radio. After the two weeks, Galmi Hospital will close their general outpatient area, while continuing specialized treatment, like their HIV services, prenatal centre and dental clinic.

In conjunction with the government, the hospital is looking for appropriate treatment centres for COVID-19 that can institute quarantine without endangering other patients.

Anne-Sophie explained, “We’ve done this before. For example, we had a cholera outbreak in 2018. So, we worked with the government and MSF to find a possible location. We want to set something up for this situation.”

While the global pandemic causes many to worry, Anne-Sophie and the other SIM missionaries at Galmi regularly see serious illnesses and are equipped with a transcendent hope.

She said, “We are surrounded by death every day, which is hard on our team and it’s hard to not have the short-term support we would normally have coming in to have a bit of time out. But there’s always opportunity—we have so many opportunities here and that’s why we do it, that’s why we’re here: There are so many opportunities to share the gospel.”

Anne-Sophie shared God’s grace a specific case of a young woman undergoing a Caesarean section in her first pregnancy. While a surgeon operated on the young woman, the baby came out in need of resuscitation. Only one oxygen concentrator was available, and its cord was twisted. As the anaesthetist attempted to unwind the cord and help the baby, he broke away from the woman, who had a rare reaction to her spinal anaesthetic, was unable to breathe and went into cardiac arrest. The team started CPR and managed to get her back, but she experienced a severe brain injury without oxygen. This showed the impact of a lack of resources for otherwise well people.

Anne-Sophie reflected on the outcome of that situation:

In that, we feel completely powerless. When you look at the outcomes of these situations, they’re really poor, yet now, two days later, she’s awake, talking and breastfeeding her baby. I see that as a miracle. That really is truly a miracle. In that, I think we see the power of God. In our weakness, in our inabilities, he comes through and shows us his power. I think it’s very much a reminder to us that even when we feel more under control, we only think we are. In fact, we need to keep coming and resting in Christ.

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Further Reflections

Further Reflections

We have all been impacted. We all know people who have been impacted in some way. Even my young grandkids seem to know things are a bit different (except the two-month old).

I’m thankful that as I sit here at home, I can actually still work. I was considering writing about the role of work in our lives—as designed by God. Man was made to work. Even before the fall, Adam was to work and care for the garden. It was later, after being expelled from that amazingly lush created place, that he had to “till the ground,” meaning work hard. So, one of the ramifications of stay at home orders during COVID-19 is that people may realize the importance of doing something productive.

Encouraging Word

But, instead of writing more about work, I have worked through my contacts of agencies and my friends at Concilium Insight to gather a few one-line reports from around the globe. I am leaving the names of organizations and some specific locations off, some because of security issues. Here goes:

A church in Japan has 10 times the number of participants in their online gatherings than when they were face to face.

A church in Asia Minor is seeing four times the number of participants online than when they were gathering physically.

A church plant ministry in Asia Minor had 2,000 views of a recent live-stream service.

Publishers are reporting a significant increase in Bibles being purchased.

Broad virtual outreach is happening through cell phones and social media with opportunities for response. There is an increase in views from both international and North American media ministries.

Workers among Church Planting Movements in South Asia are risking their lives to share the gospel as they feed those in need.

Praise the Lord for these and many, many other things He is doing. Let’s pray together that these will last, expand and extend His name to the unreached.

Sobering Reality

Unfortunately, the broader impact of COVID-19 may be still to come.

Some estimate that 25,000 people die each day from starvation and its associated problems. That is 9.1 million a year. When the poor do not work for just one day, they do not eat. So global governments’ response to COVID-19 can either increase or decrease those projections.

One brother who works with us has been serving and mentoring others to serve among the poor. His heart has been broken before, but now it is crushed by these events. He has seen what can happen in these slum communities. He has seen what is happening with believers there.

Here is just a small part of his reflections:

“Suddenly, in the space of three weeks, we have moved to a war footing. At just a 2% death rate, we expect 28 million deaths in the global slums. Starvation is beginning by the third week.  We suspect that more will die from starvation than COVID-19.” Meanwhile, India and Uganda and other countries have isolated the poor into their overcrowded communities where there is no social distancing. And this has cut them off from their jobs. Both governments are also attempting to hinder the flow of resources for political reasons. This is to slow a curve. But the poor can’t access the hospital ventilators as they can’t pay the necessary bribes.

So…this is a call to all Western (meaning: wealthy) Christians! Warfare requires rapid mobilization of resources and rapidly getting the call for help out through a multitude of channels. And we are now on a warfare footing to save the global slum-dwellers from starvation. 

Since we can’t save all, we should get the maximum resources to the millions of our brothers and sisters who are part of slum believer churches. 

Isaiah 58:7 says that a true fast is “sharing your bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into your home (the result is: “light breaking through” and healing springing up speedily! Read the whole chapter.).

Keeping a family alive with just one meal a day for a week costs about $35.00 US$. So, the discipline of simplicity is, right now, mercy and justice biblically inspired.

We are trying to find pathways through banking regulations for the transfer of resources in order to connect known leaders and their networks of 50, 100, or 160 in various cities.

Might Americans who do not need them, give their $1200 checks for the urban poor? Might that be a way for us to “invite” them into our homes?

This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

How Movements Count

Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (68 months)

How Movements Count

Over 1,035 Church Planting Movements (rapidly multiplying groups that have surpassed four generations of church planting in multiple streams) have been documented. Together, they comprise over 73 million believers in over 4.3 million churches.

When people hear this fact, they often ask: how are they counted? One implication of this question is, are they counted in a way that others can accept as credible? As a basis for an answer, let’s begin with a broader question: how do Christian denominations, in general, count their members? How, for example, do denominations in America count?

I. How United States denominations count

Denominations, or groups of churches, in the USA use various means to gather these statistics. These methods vary significantly with the size of each denomination.

Most denominations count one or both of two different types of numbers. Attendees is usually a broader and more complex number encompassing seekers, children, and new believers who have not yet met the requirements for membership. This is usually counted as the number of people regularly in a worship service. Members is usually a smaller number of people who have reached some formal stage (such as baptism).

For example, the Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America counts attendees as the average number of people (including children) who attend liturgy (the main weekly worship service) on a non-festival Sunday – that is, people who come to the main service on a day other than Christmas or Easter. The Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Conference measures attendees as “average Sunday morning attendance,” and members as “those whose name are on the attendance roll.” Not every denomination counts both attendees and members.

Denominational statistics are usually gathered by means of some form of survey instrument – paper or electronic –  which each church self-completes and returns to the denominational headquarters. Here are four examples ranging over various sizes and denominational flavors in the USA.

The Assemblies of God (3.2 million members) asks USA churches to report the total each church considers members, regardless of age, as of December 31. As their researchers told me, “This definition provides a lot of leeway for the local church.” Adherents includes all who “consider the church their home church, whether or not they are enrolled as members.” Surveys are collected via both hardcopy and online options. Responses are checked if there appear to be significant discrepancies, usually by a phone call or by checking with district staff who have a closer working relationship with pastors.

Church of the Nazarene (0.8 million members) reports are self-filed by churches. No one attempts to audit; researchers make sure the numbers add up, starting with the membership number of each church from the previous year and adding the gains and subtracting the losses to make up the new total. If numbers don’t add up, an email is sent or a phone call is made to clarify.

The Southern Baptist Convention (14 million members) uses the Annual Church Profile form to collect statistical data on all member churches. The form is returned via paper or online options. As with all denominations, not all churches fill it out every year. Returned data are compared against previous years to check for outliers; unclear data are usually referred back to state conventions for clarification.

The United Methodist Church (6 million members) groups churches into districts and annual conferences. Each church self-reports, typically using an online form. They submit their data to their district, who aggregates it for the conference, where it is aggregated for the national headquarters. A statistical team reviews the data, and if any major variances are identified, they ask the annual conference to clarify. This usually involves a phone call to the district or individual church.

In nearly every US denomination, either the church is small enough to have a specific list of all members (a “membership roll”), or it is large enough that churches report using the “honor system” – “we trust you to turn in accurate (if not necessarily precise) statistics using a fairly broad definition.” Unclear data are clarified via phone or email. “We are not the IRS [Internal Revenue Service],” one denominational researcher told me. “We don’t randomly select churches for an audit and send teams out to verify numbers. Besides, checking Sunday attendance isn’t really enough [to determine total members]: you’d have to call every member to verify.”

This highlights a complexity of denominational statistics. Attendance is a fairly easy number to estimate, even if it is not necessarily precise: just get a rough count of the number of people in a Sunday morning service. Membership, on the other hand, implies a commitment, and can introduce nuance. When does membership begin, and when does it end? If someone stops attending a church, and switches to a different church, they don’t always announce this fact. How many absences should be allowed before they are “struck from the rolls”? Are people ever struck from the rolls? How long does it take after a death? What if people go to one church on Sunday morning and another church on Saturday night? (This happens when children, for example, attend another church’s youth group.) These kinds of situations make statistical boxes difficult.

Moreover, membership usually introduces significant debates over who should be counted. One example of this is found in the article “Meaningless Membership"1. The author compares attendance to membership and asks, “Convention-wide [in the Southern Baptist Convention], there are 16 million members. But only 6 million people show up on a typical Sunday. Where are the other 10 million Southern Baptists? Some are providentially hindered, but surely not 10 million.”

II. How Movements count

Movements, like US denominations, wish to count their members. There are several reasons for counting, but four seem to be common to most movements. First, movements emphasize growth, and they want to see if they are growing. Second, by counting members in various streams, problems (which can be identified in part by a correlation in lack of multi-generational growth) can be identified and addressed. Third, movements generally don’t count to measure themselves in terms of their own growth, but rather to measure themselves against the surrounding non-Christian populations. The question they are trying to answer is, are we making progress in reaching the lost? Fourth, some movements use this counting for reports to their partners in areas such as prayer, projects, and funding.

 Three forms of “counting” are generally found.

A. Small movements

Method 1 – We know everyone in the movement, whether we document them on a membership roll or not. 

Some movements or pre-movements are small enough (under 1,000 members, for example) that all the groups, leaders, and even members can be known. Perhaps the stories of the individual leaders can be recounted. (For example, “This man came to faith because that grandmother prayed for his healing and he was healed. Then he shared with his brother, and their whole family came to faith.”) In their small numbers, they can easily be counted on a spreadsheet or a series of diagrams on papers. This is similar in practice to the “membership rolls” of smaller US denominations.

B. Moderately large movements

Method 2 – Each of the various streams within a movement know their members very well, and their numbers are aggregated to count the whole. 

Some movements or pre-movements are too large to easily have everyone listed on a spreadsheet. (This “too large” threshold is often reached when a movement grows to the size of thousands of members, and definitely reached at the 10,000 member level.) Particular streams or portions of the movement, however, can be small enough individually to be similar to small movements above. They can aggregate their own numbers, and then each stream’s total can be counted together to come up with totals for the movement as a whole.

This process is similar to large US denominations that divide their churches into districts. Some streams might need to break their counts down further as they in turn get too large to count individually. However, when movements have thousands or tens of thousands of adherents, their individual streams are mostly “small-ish” and can be easily counted.

As movements become larger, they can encounter issues of security and technical logistics that make data collection risky or difficult. In a restricted-access area, a large data set of several thousand people can be very risky indeed. In places with very little technology or even very little literacy, the idea of gathering even sheets of paper might be challenging.

Because of these factors, a movement might decide to estimate their numbers based on data points like “the average number of people discipled by a leader” or “the average number of people in a group.” These sorts of estimates are just as accurate as any American denominational count (such as, “We have 10 churches, and each church has about 200 people”), although they might be less precise (see discussion of accuracy and precision below).

For example, I helped one movement estimate its total membership at between 8 and 12 million people. The estimate was made on the basis of the number of leaders, the number each discipled on average, a survey of the number of “generations” of leaders in each stream, and the geographic spread of the movement, with an estimate of its saturation of individual districts. The estimate, with a range of millions, was a truthful and accurate statement, but obviously very imprecise.

C. Very large movements 

Method 3 – We are large enough to have the resources to invest in complex and regular counts. 

Some movements are very large: organized in the millions, they are the equivalent of any national denomination in the United States or elsewhere (Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God, etc.). Because of their size, they have the resources to make a heavy investment in counting and do a regular census of their members (which is something very few American denominations actually do).

To accomplish this, a research team physically visits most leaders and completes a survey to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. This can result in numbers that are both accurate and very precise and that are frequently updated. Such numbers are also, for obvious reasons, highly sensitive. Very large censuses are also complex processes that are difficult for smaller groups to implement.

III. Reliability

We know movements count their people in ways similar to how counts are made in other parts of the world. This similarity is natural: when adding up the number of people in a set and recording them, similar problems are encountered around the world and solved in similar ways. Are the counts reliable and credible? To answer that, we need to consider the various reasons why someone might look at a number and respond, “That’s just got to be wrong.”

A. Mistakes of definition

Misunderstandings can happen when someone gives a number without explaining what that number is. Is it attendees or adherents?

This can be especially true of movements that have both “churches” and “seeker groups.” Such movements often bring pre-believers who are spiritually hungry together in groups to explore Scripture stories. Eventually these “seeker groups” (often named different things in different movements) will either disintegrate due to lack of interest, or their members will become believers and form into a church.

“Seeker groups” are therefore closer to “attendees” in a Western church. Movements don’t typically report those numbers. They are in constant flux.

Movements, when reporting, usually provide “churches” and “adherents” – but the exact definition of “adherent” will vary from place to place. Generally, the majority of adherents are baptized believers. In some movements, however, believers might take a long time to be baptized, for a variety of reasons. Some movements report children, and some don’t (as with some American denominations). Some count “adult” at a much lower age than the typical American denomination would.

As with all research, when examining or comparing numbers, it’s important to know the definitions.

B. Accuracy, precision, and rounding

In the World Christian Encyclopedia, some denominations report their membership to the last digit; others round the number (usually to the nearest thousand). The difference between exact and rounded numbers is not accuracy, but rather precision. To say a denomination has 952 or 950 or 1,000 adherents is to make a true, accurate statement within the same order of magnitude, with varying levels of precision.

To use a different example: if my daughter asks me what time it is, and I reply “It’s a quarter to ten” when the time is 9:43, I am not lying – I am being imprecise but “close enough.”

Variances in precision appear in all sorts of counts. The difference between 21 million and 20 million is less important than the difference between 20 million and 200,000. Similarly, if a given number is thought to be in the tens of millions, but precision is difficult, it might be enough to know whether it is on the low end (10 to 20 million) or on the high end (70 to 80 million).

Regardless of how denominations report their information, we need to keep in mind our own biases: a very precise number can give a false impression of precision. For many denominations – especially movements – the number of members is constantly changing. New people are joining, others are defecting; some are being born, some are dying. We need therefore to hold any single number loosely and preferably report in a rounded form (as I do, when I say there are over 73 million members of movements around the world).

C. Exaggeration

Occasionally, some have told me they believe the numbers in a movement are exaggerated. The primary motivation for movements to exaggerate their numbers would be financial: high numbers could be used in fundraising appeals. We have not seen any evidence for this in the movements we have documented. In fact, we have often seen movements intentionally undercount. Sometimes this means setting aside from the count portions of the movement which they feel aren’t adequately researched, or for which the numbers aren’t really certain. In some movements, counts are reduced by a percentage out of concern for error rates in the count method.

Further, our research has shown most movements fund the vast majority of their ministries internally. The percentage of outside money is minimal, especially when considered proportionally to the size of the larger movements. In other words, if their goal were to raise money by exaggerating their numbers, they would be doing a poor job.

For most movements, exaggeration isn’t an issue due to their small size. The vast majority of individual movements are around the 1,000-member level, and the members can be known, as we have highlighted above.

Finally, we have documented movements in 5-year increments as they grew from 1990 to 2020. Movements have followed a variety of patterns of growth, plateauing, and ending over those periods of time. Movements do not follow any lockstep patterns of growth that would indicate engineered numbers.

D. Deception

A final claim occasionally leveled at movements is that they are outright deceptions. Either the accuser, or someone the accuser knows, “has been in the area” and “there is nothing happening there.”

When I have dug into such accusations, I have never found deception to be the case. In a few instances when deception has been found in part of a movement, the movement leaders have publicly admitted it and corrected their reports. In our experience, movement leaders are highly motivated to find any deception.

Frequently, outside accusations of deception seem not to be based on any evidence other than that the accuser or their colleagues have been in the area without seeing similar results or seeing evidence of the movement. They typically ignore that these movements are usually in extremely high-risk areas. If they are to survive, they have to become very well-versed in hiding their existence from governments and religious leaders. Many movements have had leaders “stolen” by mainstream public churches, often through offering salaries. Some have had their groups labeled as “heretical” and reported to the government by other believers. Westerners have gotten “in the know” and then without discretion have shared what they know, sometimes with very detrimental consequences. And most of all, many of these movements are so contextual that outsiders often don’t recognize them as Christian. Communities of people who dress in local fashions, gather and eat in local ways, and use local music do not look like what outsiders think of as “church.”  For all these reasons, movements are often invisible to outsiders.

The 1,000+ movements we have documented have each had multiple contacts with selected groups of trusted friends. This web of trust includes people from many different nations, mission organizations, denominations, and backgrounds. Our team has usually discovered them by being within reach of such a trusted relationship (otherwise we, too, would likely not know about them). In most of the larger movements, we have personally met with leaders at various levels, who are working in very difficult situations, with significant security risks and very little money involved. We have shared meals with earnest church planters who have shown us the scars from persecution. They have told us many stories, including their mistakes, failures, and details too bizarre to make up. The similar patterns and details across unconnected movements add to the ring of authenticity.


Over 1,000 movements have been identified in the world. Each of these falls into general size categories of "small" (around 1,000 members), "medium" (some thousands to tens of thousands), or "large" (over 100,000 to some millions).

All movements, in some way or another, with some regularity, attempt a count of their membership, for a variety of reasons. They use methods similar to Western denominations, with similar levels of accuracy. Precision falls off with increases in size, which is to be expected.

Movements are loath to share this kind of information with outsiders, because it can be misused and represents a significant security risk. Movements are often “hidden” from outsiders, and the security risks often make third-party vetting of the information challenging, if not impossible. Yet at the same time, note that outsiders do not usually see the need to vet or audit the information of Western denominations.

In general, the same methods applied to Western denominations are applied to movements and should be accorded similar assessments of their accuracy.

  1. 1 Al Jackson, 9 Marks, publi,shed 4/28/2011, accessed 10/18/2019.

This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

Beyond Tokyo: an African Perspective

Beyond Tokyo: an African Perspective

In 2010, I came to Tokyo from Nigeria to participate in the Global Missions Consultation with 1000 leaders from around the world. Through it, I gained a better perspective of the Great Commission, the unfinished task, and the many avenues through which God is gathering His harvest. I met several global missions movement leaders, whom I had only heard of “by the hearing of the ear” (to use Job’s expression).  I made collaborative connections that still continue today.

I felt connected to a global network focused on fulfilling the greatest mandate on earth, and I left with the certainty that the kingdom of our God and of His Christ (Rev.11:15) would prevail. Tokyo 2010 was a fresh impetus for global missions and not an end in itself. I continued collaborating with other Great Commission ministries, ministers and individuals through the Global Great Commission Network, GGCN (

Discovering the Imperative for Collaboration

A valuable lesson I took away from Tokyo 2010 was the imperative for collaboration in order to fulfill the Great Commission. The different fields, the changing times and global socio-political realities presented a challenge to reaching the world with the love of Jesus. So many leaders and organizations approached the harvest from so many angles, but no organization had capacity, skill or the strategies to reach every group effectively especially in light of global realities. It became apparent that everyone needs to work together to finish the task.

The ministry that I lead, Eternity Ministries (, experienced tangible fruit from this collaborative spirit. During the event, I visited the Create International stand. Create is a ministry of Youth With A Mission (YWAM). I met Carol and Calvin Conkey, the then directors of Create Thailand. Calvin is also Director of the Global Media Network. From this connection, we later sent our Media Director to Create Thailand’s Media for Missions training in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Later I attended a workshop by Dr. Paul Eshleman, the first director of the Jesus Film Project. He shared that while the “JESUS” film had enjoyed tremendous success, short film was the key media strategy in the years ahead. This was due to changing media consumption patterns and the shortening attention spans of consumers. YouTube was only five years old at that time, and its development in the last ten years confirms Dr. Eschleman’s observations.

Dr. Eshleman encouraged production of short, culturally appropriate gospel videos and discussion starters. I was introduced to I also received digital content with some short films that I still use to teach and mobilize for missions.

Dr. Seth Kofi Anyomi, who was the leader of the African delegation and came to Tokyo 2010 from Ghana, shared that he also benefited from the consultation’s collaborative culture. He said, “Tokyo 2010 brought multiple blessings…. I had the singular opportunity to network with many church and mission leaders in Africa. Lasting friendships have been formed. Some of these have transformed into ministry partnerships that are benefiting church and mission endeavors around the globe.”

Amplifying Attention for Discipleship and the Unreached

Leaders at the Consultation realized that while progress was being made in preaching the gospel, more needed to be done about discipling the nations, which was the key command of the Great Commission. Several papers and strategies were shared, including a plenary session by Gbile Akanni of Living Seed. Tokyo 2010 seemed to be a major catalyst for the Disciple Making Movements and related efforts currently gaining traction around the world. This is a positive development, one that can only amplify and intensify as we race towards the finish line of our Lord’s final command.

The attention given to the unreached was palpable. Statistics showed thousands of people groups yet to be reached or engaged. The concept of Unengaged Unreached People Groups (UUPGs) stood out for me. Thousands of tribes had no one looking in their direction. At Tokyo 2010, leaders and organizations were encouraged to adopt these peoples, pray for them, and consider ways to reach them with Scripture translation, relevant media/ internet strategies and cross-cultural missionaries. 

Reflecting on these aspects of the consultation, Rev. João Luis of South Africa said, “Tokyo 2010 helped me to change my focus. I decided to open and run mission schools in a few nations and mobilize churches to get involved in missions— in the Democratic Republic of Congo, …[and] Brazil….Thanks to Tokyo 2010 for opening my horizons and understanding!”

GGCN Africa—Vision, Values and Strategies

After Tokyo 2010 I came on board as the Africa Coordinator. We developed this vision of the tangible expression of the GGCN ethos in Africa: 

A continent of connected, resourced and ignited individuals, agencies, churches, and networks making disciples of every people, and mobilizing, equipping and releasing every believer to make disciples locally and globally—every believer, making reproducing disciples of every people from every platform, and planting self-multiplying New Testament churches, leading to multiplication of disciples and Disciple Making Movements in Africa and beyond—until

“this gospel of the kingdom is preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations.” (Matt.24:14)

The grassroots vision of GGCN means that attention must be given to mobilizing the Christian “proletariat”— the masses in our churches—who do not see themselves as a part of God’s mission force. At GGCN Africa, we are working to establish regional and national leadership structures that will bring the vision closer to each country/ region, as well as galvanize the grassroots with a missional vision and training in disciple-making.

In line with the overall vision of the Global Great Commission Network, GGCN, GGCN Africa seeks to serve, not to compete, with the Church in Africa, and encourage collaboration through the following avenues:

  1. Prayer: Earnest prayer precedes, enfolds and undergirds every aspect of the work of GGCN Africa.
  2. GGCN Connect: GGCN Africa promotes the use of Connect  (GGCN’s networking platform) as an avenue to network with other ministries, churches and individuals, and to benefit from the collection of discipleship resources at
  3. Training and Equipping: Convinced that the primary challenge of discipling our continent’s 1.3 billion people is the dearth of effective laborers, GGCN Africa seeks to multiply ignited laborers that can be moved out into the harvest. We accomplish this by providing contextualized, informative, transformative and catalyzing training to (and through) agencies, organizations, churches and individuals willing to collaborate with GGCN.
  4. Youth: Serving in the world’s youngest continent, GGCN Africa pays particular attention to collaborating with others to mobilize youth, youth movements, students, student movements, etc. to make disciples.
  5. Marketplace Ministry: To help ensure that the Church in Africa is viable financially and able to pursue the missions enterprise without undue dependence, GGCN Africa encourages the Church in Africa to prioritize Marketplace Ministry and Business as Missions (BAM) models by equipping believers to thrive on their platforms in the marketplace and to make disciples therefrom.
  6. Nationals: GGCN Africa focuses on networking, equipping and resourcing local African people and national movements to make disciples of their own peoples: i.e. Africans reaching Africans.
  7. Envisioning: GGCN Africa helps promote a global perspective for inwardly-oriented African churches and organizations to help them look beyond denominational lines and embrace God’s missional purpose.
  8. Technology: We leverage technology to advance all of the above using the tech capabilities of Africans, especially believing youth.

Leaders in Africa and around the world who feel a connection to these avenues are welcome to connect with GGCN Africa to receive information about target areas and explore other avenues for collaboration.

It is our conviction that no one can accurately quantify the results of Tokyo 2010. May it please the Lord of the harvest to use all the efforts arising therefrom to advance His glory in the nations.  


This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

Next Steps after Tokyo: GGCN Asia

Next Steps after Tokyo: GGCN Asia

The General Secretary of India Missions Association (IMA) in 2010, Rev. Susanta Patra, selected me to be part of a delegation of IMA mission leaders and encouraged me to attend the Global Missions Consultation in Tokyo. When we arrived at the conference venue, leaderscultural dress welcomed us. It gave our whole delegation an instant sense of the diversity of God’s people and the scope of what we would be part of in the days to come.
The sessions informed and challenged me. Presentations and discussions about global evangelism, discipleship, and Unreached People Groups helped me to think differently about mission strategies. The consultation
vision “Making Disciples of Every People in OurGeneration” rings in my ears to this day. The space for networking with mission leaders, practitioners and champions helped me to build relationships that proved valuable even after the event. And, the announcement of the Tokyo Declaration provided a unifying statement to unite every follower of Christ to obey the Great Commission.

Birth of GGCN India

That momentum continued and became encapsulated in the Global Great Commission Network (GGCN). As this follow up movement to carry on the Tokyo 2010 vision began to spread across the globe, I was appointed as the national coordinator of GGCN India. Shortly afterward, a national steering team formed. GGCN is a volunteer movement designed to stimulate worldwide mission efforts. Each national GGCN chapter is independent, autonomous, and locally resourced. They represent the national interdenominational and intercultural Church.

Leaders include men and women as well as clergy and laity. GGCN chapters give attention to grassroot practitioners, local community needs, and building awareness of effective missional strategies for local cultural and political situations. Everything is done from a non-competitive stance, seeking to serve churches and missions. The work of each GGCN chapter is determined by its national leadership.

With this network culture in mind, the Indian GGCN steering team met together in Delhi in 2014 to discuss our national evangelism and discipleship challenges. We identified four areas for GGCN India to address:
• Personal discipline and engagement in discipleship
• Children and youth as today’s Church
• Mobilizing the alternative mission force
• Engaging unengaged people groups and areas

We translated the Tokyo Declaration and GCCN Discipleship Survey into local Indian languages to make it accessible to more church leaders and other Christian workers. We also planned seminars, conferences, workshops and training programs in local Indian languages to coincide with each of these four areas.

All the programs we launched were well attended by grassroots gospel workers, church and mission leaders, a balance of men and women as well as young and old, and missionaries and professionals. Local leaders organized every event and raised local funds to pay for them. In fact, we challenged these leaders to consider, “Is it possible to organize without money?” As we shared our experiences of God’s work in this way, most were convinced to try.
This encouragement produced fruit and in many regions local mission practitioners are reaching out to their own communities with their own resources.GGCN India is also helping emerging leaders and organizations connect with one another as well as with other churches and missions which share their vision. We’ve also helped in practical ways by bringing together volunteers to help with rescue work after natural disasters in our country.

Moving Beyond India Into Asia

Asia is both the source of most world religions and philosophies as well as the home of vast numbers of unreached peoples. Sixty percent of the world’s population is here, split into more than seven thousand people groups. Around seventy percent of these groups are unreached.

As GGCN India took root, we became a launching point for expansion of GGCN’s presence across Asia. GGCN’s steering team connected with church and mission leaders in Sri Lanka and Nepal. Each has, in turn, begun their own autonomous GGCN chapters.

The areas of focus for GGCN Sri Lanka include the following:
• Reaching the unengaged people groups
• Preparing the disciples for marketplace
• Teaching and training the pastors and missionaries
• Nurturing Christian education for children and youth
• Being an agent for unity, peacemaking and reconciliation among Sri Lanka churches and the public
• Presenting a peace as presented in Scripture to communities affected by violence

For Nepal, focus areas include these key points:
• Reaching the Unreached People Groups of Nepal
• Training in discipleship
• Developing capable leaders
• Developing skills and income-generating businesses as a means to advance gospel work
• Promoting unity and fellowship among Christians
• Practicing the gifts of the Spirit
• Catalyzing social transformation through politics and media

GGCN Asia continues to grow in countries across Asia. Discussions are beginning for national GGCN chapters in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, and Indonesia. We invite volunteer leaders from all Asian countries to join hands with GGCN to facilitate chapters in their respective countries. Working together we can reach the unreached and disciple the nations of our continent in this generation!  

This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

The Ongoing Impact of Tokyo 2010

The Ongoing Impact of Tokyo 2010

The Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation was a watershed moment in mission history. The Tokyo Declaration, a product of that consultation, took what had occurred up until that time and what was occurring then, and put it into context. Discipleship became a focused commitment with an evolving understanding of what discipleship really looks like on personal and corporate levels.  Before 2010 few were talking about “discipleship” as a core task in missions. Today there has been a proliferation of attention given to it.

The subsequent explosion of the number of local churches and increasing collaboration between them and the mission community has been nothing short of phenomenal. We now have the advantage of a 10-year perspective that shows how important the event itself and the Declaration has become in history. 


At the close of the Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation in May of 2010, the 1000 international delegates took a decisive step to adopt the Tokyo Declaration as a commitment and guiding document for Great Commission obedience and collaboration. The last paragraph of the Tokyo Declaration includes these words: “To facilitate cooperation and on-going coordination between mission structures worldwide, we agree to the necessity of a global network of mission structures.”

Previous to that, missiologist Ralph Winter advocated for years for a global level association of mission agencies. Accordingly, he was closely involved in the planning of the Tokyo 2010 Consultation with the hopes that the gathering of global delegates would launch such a network.

With this background, the Tokyo 2010 Planning Committee was acutely aware that holding the conference was the easiest part of the mission before them. The more demanding task was the fulfillment of Winter’s vision for a functioning, effective, and lasting global network. As a response to that challenge, the Global Great Commission Network—Carrying Tokyo 2010 Forward emerged in August 2011. Since then the Global Great Commission Network (GGCN) has been working to put reality to the expectations of Tokyo 2010, with the Tokyo Declaration as the foundation for global cooperation.

The world of missions and the reality of global connectivity have changed greatly since Winter envisioned a global level association. In response, the Tokyo 2010 planning committee opened the Tokyo 2010 Consultation to churches and individuals. Since then the GGCN has continued in that vein. The Tokyo Declaration highlighted a pledge that reads in part:

We confess that we have not always valued each other or each other’s work. We repent of those wrongs and will endeavor to bring an end to competition where it exists, and reconcile where there is hurt, misunderstanding and mistrust… We will respect all mission-engaging individuals and groups as special vessels for God’s glory, each endowed with abilities that extend His Kingdom in multiple ways… we recognize that finishing the task will demand effective cooperative efforts of the entire global body of believers.

It is upon the foundation of this confession, repentance, and vision that the GGCN exists.

Global Great Commission Network Activity since 2011

The Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation was intended to be the beginning of a movement to see all peoples discipled in this generation.  For the past nine years GGCN has served mission associations, agencies, churches, individuals, networks, and other ministries globally who share this same vision. Our core purpose is to provide a place for like-minded Great Commission individuals and ministries to connect, communicate and collaborate. It is important to note that we do not compete with other networks and ministries but rather strive to support them.

Additionally, GGCN acknowledges from Matthew 28:19 both the breadth (all peoples) and depth (make disciples) of the Church’s unfinished task and pledges to champion and obey this aspect of the Great Commission. We seek to discover where people remain unreached, overlooked, ignored or forgotten.

Values of the GGCN

The following six values are at the core of what we are about:

  1. The Global Church in all its God-honoring expressions: we acknowledge that God is on mission, drawing all peoples unto Himself.  The GGCN exists to champion the redemptive cause of Christ and the means by which His followers participate— making disciples among all peoples of the world.
  2. Collaboration and Synergy: we believe in the necessity of  collaboration in the body of Christ and the power of synergy this creates for the completion of the Great Commission.
  3. Relationships: we believe it takes relationships to make partnerships possible. This requires mutual respect, ongoing communication, encouraging innovation, learning together, including the sharing of ideas, experiences, research and resources and, most of all, love.  We understand we are a global Church and mission force, valuing face-to-face interaction. We also understand that if we are to connect, communicate, and collaborate in a significant way, we must leverage technology to do so.
  4. Local Expressions in a Global Movement: GGCN is a part of a Global mission movement; however our desire is to see connection, communication, and collaboration occurring on a local, grassroots level. 
  5. Ethnic diversity, championing equality in Great Commission endeavors: The Tokyo Declaration acknowledges that “Missions is no longer the predominant domain of Western Christianity” and that  “we rejoice that today’s mission force is global in composition, bearing a diversity of thought, practice and resources that enriches and energizes Christ’s global Cause as never before.” We believe every voice is to be valued and considered equally important.
  6. Unity in Diversity: we acknowledge our diversity and value the differences in the Church.  We conclude that “the present-day mission task is so large and complex that no one church, agency, national missions movement or regional mission block can take it on alone or independently.” It is imperative that we commit ourselves to intentionally forming strategic relationships, not only with those to whom we are similar, but with those who represent the diverse activities associated with mission. We exist to encourage these relationships and to foster them whenever possible.

GGCN has picked up the momentum generated by the Tokyo 2010 Consultation.  That includes the vision to see every people group reached and in the process of being discipled in this generation. GGCN has done this by promoting discipleship resources and collaboration to reach unreached people groups including collaborative internet tools with a focus on local, grassroots mobilization and training. 

Administratively, GGCN is led by a Global Steering Team which includes some of the original Tokyo 2010 planning committee members, along with other Tokyo 2010 delegates, with a growing percentage of non-western participation. We have an increasing involvement from grassroots participation on the committee, especially from Asia and Africa.

Tools and Services GGCN Provides

As stated earlier, most GGCN activity is initiated at the local, grassroots level. However, there are a growing number of tools that GGCN provides free of charge to Great Commission workers and ministries worldwide. These include:

Tokyo 2010 follow-up

GGCN maintains the archives of the Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation at  This site includes videos and pictures, papers, original and updated presentations, and reviews of Tokyo 2010. These can be directly accessed at tokyo-2010-gmc/. 

Tokyo Declaration

One of the primary outcomes of Tokyo 2010 was the crafting and adopting of the Tokyo Declaration.  GGCN has continued to promote the Declaration by providing several translations.  Individuals and organizations are encouraged to sign the Declaration online. Over the years hundreds of Great Commission Christians have pledged themselves and/or their organizations to the commitments of the Tokyo Declaration.


Connect is a safe, neutral, online platform committed to facilitating conversations between individuals and various entities with group discussions, information sharing and much more.  All registrations are screened carefully to verify the authenticity of members’ interest in Great Commission activities.

Connect is also a place that introduces individuals to the variety of components that make up the mission world and provides a platform to interact and collaborate with one another. The hope is that through Connect users will discover the resources, the information, and the tools to assist them in fulfilling their calling as they interact with others.

The ultimate goal is that as people connect and communicate, it will lead to increased collaboration between ministries, agencies, networks and individuals. We believe that collaboration is a key to making disciples of the nations. Through Connect, one is able to champion a cause, raise awareness, share needs, create projects and plan outreaches and events. Connect is also a place where individual ministries have the opportunity to promote their ministries and callings, learn from others, make their own resources available, and glean information from the knowledge and resources of others.  Registration for Connect can be found at 

Discipleship Survey

In alignment with the vision of discipling all peoples, the GGCN offers an online discipleship survey for either individuals or groups, which provides an instant report and feedback on one’s personal understanding and practice of evangelism and discipleship. The survey can be accessed at


Looking Forward

The potential for sharing and learning from each other is unlimited. Regional representatives hold local training events that draw local pastors and other mission workers, many of whom don’t have the ability to connect and hear from others online or otherwise.  We desire to make available the many global voices that are emerging around the world from whom we all need to learn.  We seek to expand the cooperative efforts built around Unreached People Groups, bringing missionaries, pastors, churches, agencies, networks, businessmen and others to proactively cooperate to see Unreached People Groups reached. The Tokyo Declaration ends with a pledge:

Therefore, as representatives of this generation’s global mission community, we pledge to obey the Great Commission. We covenant together to use all that God has entrusted to us in this obedience. We will seek to know where people are unreached, overlooked, ignored, or forgotten.

God requires this generation to match the reality of the unfinished task before us with a willingness to humbly collaborate as we rely on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide and bless our efforts in His redemptive mission. 

To connect, communicate and collaborate through GGCN, or to explore other ways GGCN can be of service, we encourage Great Commission Christians, agencies, churches and organizations of all callings in any part of the world to consider engaging in the following ways:

  • Sign the Tokyo Declaration online at: https://www
  • Join with others in your area and region to facilitate GGCN activities and ministries. To get started see the ‘Regional GGCN’ listings on the menu
  • Join Connect and take a lead in sharing and discussions at
  • Volunteer for regional, area, and local GGCN steering team opportunities (see https://www.ggcn org/v.olunteer or email [email protected])
  • Share resources you have produced or are aware of on Connect and/or by contacting [email protected].

Working together and encouraging one another as our Lord has instructed is an imperative for all engaged in Great Commission ministries. Together let’s seek ways to live out this truth in the spirit of Tokyo 2010 as we endeavor to engage the unreached and make disciples of the nations.

Overview of Other Articles

The articles and information in this issue of Mission Frontiers include updates from:

  • Two Tokyo 2010 plenary speakers (Paul Eshleman and Kevin Higgins)
  • Another plenary speaker and a primary author of the Tokyo Declaration (Marvin Newell)
  • Two coordinators of GGCN’s regional/grassroots expressions (Paul Radha Krishnan and Ferdinand Nweke)
  • The Unreached Peoples Prayer Task Force at Tokyo 2010 (Liz Adleta) 

Throughout this issue it is our intent to communicate the value that “every voice is equally important” in finishing the task that remains before us of “Making Disciples of Every People in our Generation.” That includes valuing the many global voices that make up part of our Lord’s powerful Church.  He is calling His Church to connect, communicate, and collaborate in new ways that have never before been possible.


This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

Mobilization as Discipleship

Mobilization as Discipleship

I met with the planning team during the 2010 Global Mission Consultation in Tokyo and shared my belief that if we gather, plan, strategize, assemble great resources, and conduct accurate research, but fail to mobilize local churches worldwide, we will fail to do the Great Commission. We recognized then that mobilizing the whole Church to reach the whole world was our greatest opportunity. Ten years later, this remains our goal. 

At the Tokyo 2010 event, the global missions community committed to the Tokyo Declaration: “making disciples of every people in our generation.” This article addresses the relationship between mobilization and discipleship. It is my belief that a church discipled is a church mobilized, a church mobilized is believers discipled. It will take the whole Church mobilized to reach the whole world.

Four Processes of Mobilization—Knowing, Being, Having and Doing

Discipleship is a lifelong process of living life with and in Christ. It occurs individually and collectively as Christ guides us through four processes – from knowing to being to having to doing

Marvin Newell writes, “In the early church, the Apostle Paul stood out as one of the foremost disciple makers. The book of Acts records how he did it and what a major focus it was in his ministry as he evangelized new areas. However, his passion for making mature disciples is probably best seen in a prayer… for a group of believers…in Colosse.”1 In this prayer Paul provides an outline for what Newell calls “transformational discipleship” and provides understanding of these four processes in discipleship.   

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. – Colossians 1:9-12, NIV

The prayer begins with a request that we might gain knowledge and makes it clear that this knowledge of God is the insight that His Spirit imparts. This knowledge makes known the purpose, or what is pleasing, to God. Second, the prayer requests that this knowledge might inform how we live our lives. God intends that life in Christ would re-shape our identities, resulting in a way of being that is pleasing to Him. Third, the prayer requests that our lives would have fruit. This reference applies both to the internal fruit of His indwelling Spirit (Gal. 5:22) as well as metaphorically to the good works as believers abide in Him (Matt, 13:23, Mark 4:20, Luke 8:15, John 15:5, Rom. 7:4). 

Lastly, the prayer ends with a request that we would understand how we have been made able to do His every good purpose as we participate in God’s mission. When we realize how He has shaped us individually with gifts, treasure and talents, we can learn to steward our life in His mission. As we are enabled, we are strengthened with God's glorious power as well as His authority which he promises accompanies us as we participate in His mission until the end of the age (Matt. 28:18-20). This extends to the inheritance or allotment he bestows, if only in part, upon the “saints in the kingdom of his light”.  

These same four processes – knowing, being, having, and doing – happen in mobilization. They are simply the fundamentals of a growing and developing faith as we move with Christ in His mission. The sequence matures a believer. 

Three Dimensions of Mobilization – Discovery, Development and Deployment

Holistic mobilization represents a series of interconnected activities and events. Working with God and His Spirit, mobilizers help draw people towards God purposes and then equip them to be engaged in His mission. Mobilizers provide guided discovery which leads both individuals and ministries to encounter God as creator and redeemer and to understand how believers are meant to live in light of His eternal purpose.  

However, knowledge and inspiration about redemption and God's invitation to participate in His mission are not enough. Every believer must be equipped to serve in God’s mission in some way. Development occurs as we impart “knowledge by teaching, skill by guided experience, and character by modeling and mentoring.”2  

Deployment of people in God’s mission involves moving them and necessary resources into a strategic position to be most effectively utilized. When we fail to train before giving opportunities for mission deployment, we fail to truly mobilize. The church plays a critical part in engagement through activities such as prayer, sending, receiving, going, etc., that both equip and deploy those they serve into Great Commission work locally and globally. 

Bringing the Dimensions and Processes Together

When mobilization efforts focus on intentionally leading churches and individuals in them from discovery through development to deployment, the four processes are at work within each of these dimensions. The dimensions help us see how the processes are practically contextualized. They help us intentionally lead believers from awareness to engagement in the mission of Christ. 

  • Discovery as Discipleship: Knowing is personally, experientially and intimately coming to know God as Creator and Redeemer. Being is discovering our personal identity as created in His image and as a new creation. Having is understanding what God gives to believers collectively and individually – gifts, treasure and talents – and understanding our call to be stewards and not just consumers. Doing is individually and collectively joining Him in His mission.  
  • Development as Discipleship: Knowing is a deepening faith as well as a growing breadth and depth of knowledge of God and from God, concerning life and mission. Being is understanding more deeply the realities of our new life in Christ including a personal and spiritual formation into mature disciples of Jesus. Having is increasing our capacity to steward our individual gifts, treasures and talents to serve His purpose collectively. Doing involves developing practical skills necessary to carry out His mission. 
  • Deployment as Discipleship: Knowing God and receiving knowledge from Him becomes a joint understanding with other believers. As this is practically applied, it develops into wisdom. This wisdom is then shared through proclamation and demonstration globally. Being culminates in realizing a new collective identity – the Church. We recognize that as individual members of Christ’s body we are joined together with other believers into one new body with one eternal head, who is Christ Jesus. 

Having includes both the power of His glorious might as well as the authority he invests in His Church. It is what we are given individually to steward as we share corporately with His Church. It is the inheritance shared among His Church to accomplish His purpose as it unfolds throughout time. Doing is living lives that bear the fruit of His Kingdom. We begin as recipients and benefactors of Christ’s redemptive mission. We learn to share the blessing of Christ’s redemptive work in the same way we received it. We identify how we can participate in that mission individually. We increase our capacity, gain valuable skills and actively participate in Christ’s mission locally as well as globally as a function of Christ’s body on the earth.


Accomplishing the Great Commission requires a mobilized global church taking the Gospel to the whole world. Mobilization must include calling the whole Church, discipling every believer to be a Gospel witness, and then orchestrating and effectively engaging His people in His redemptive purpose. This requires a holistic approach to mobilization which must include logistic, strategic and effective recruiting, developing and deploying all resources in a manner which produces maximum effort. Mobilization is also a part of discipleship itself. It is multidimensional and each dimension has key processes. When we take time to understand these dimensions and processes, we better position ourselves, individually and collectively, to participate more fully in God’s mission. 

  1. 1 “Commissioned: What Jesus Wants You to Know as You Go, Marvin J. Newell. 

  2. 2 Church is a Team Sport: A Championship Strategy for doing Ministry Together by Jim Putman, Baker Books 2009.

This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

Great Doors of Opportunity

Great Doors of Opportunity

No matter your view of globalization and its influence on the world, there is no question that many major (and some minor) events ripple around the world. Two that have been in the global news recently are the coronavirus and the death of Kobe Bryant. As I write, we are just beginning to see the downstream economic impact of China’s handling of the coronavirus. Factories that shut down there have impacted supply line and production around the world. Even as the death of Kobe Bryant fades in the minds of some, many have been profoundly impacted by his life. He was their hero.

I have tried to pay attention in each of these situations—with a spirit of prayer. I’ve been watching how people respond, here and around the world. I’ve reached out to friends who I knew might be struggling. When people are questioning life and death matters, we need to be ready. It is an opportunity for ministry.

In the case of Kobe’s death, a friend and mission leader was close to the family of someone else on the same helicopter. He and his wife were asked to come to the memorial to support the family. Please pray for them.

Opportunities come in ways we wish they would not.

There is a danger in focusing too much on events in the news as we share with others and teach the Word of God. Things also fade from people’s minds and hearts. When we illustrate our Bible teaching from current events too much, it takes the focus off of God and the truth in His Word. It is easy to use the culture around us in our teaching. Studying the Bible is hard work! But often, evaluating culture is a guess—we rarely know what really happened in any given event.

Still, we should be both students of the Word and the newspaper, as Howard Hendricks told me, if for no other reason than that we: 1) understand what the people around us, our church and beyond are experiencing; and 2) to inform our prayers. We want to see God work in so many people’s lives—from family, to those near us, to those we hear about around the world. Are you praying for those impacted by the coronavirus? Both for nonbelievers and for your brothers and sisters who live there? Did you know some of them were going out on the streets in full protective clothing to share the gospel?

I hope I am wrong, but it seems to me that we don’t really believe James 4:2b “you do not have because you do not pray.” This verse should

convict all of us regarding our prayer life and our faith. I fail so often. I would be overwhelmed with guilt if I didn’t believe and experience God’s grace. It is natural to get absorbed in life near me—what I can see and touch. But if that verse is true, then we should be praying for God to do amazing—even unbelievable things. John Piper said of this verse, that “God causes things to happen that would not happen if you didn’t pray.” Think about that. As crazy as that sounds given the sovereignty of God, it is

So…are we praying for God to move in our day to spread the truth about Jesus with those who are far away from Him? Do you pray for specific people groups like those mentioned daily in the Unreached People of the Day app (See These are the “opportunities” we all have before us. Think of the specific people and opportunities you have in your life which you should pray about.

Like Paul, we all have a “great door of opportunity” wide open before us. (1 Cor. 16:9) What are the opportunities God is giving to you? Are you walking in them by the

Spirit and in faith-filled prayer?

This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

A Church Prepared for the Worst

A Church Prepared for the Worst

As I write, the world is reeling from the effects of the coronavirus. Stock markets are plummeting, restaurants, hotels and schools are closing and churches are canceling services. Mission organizations are postponing or cancelling conferences. President Trump has declared a national state of emergency. Whole countries like Italy, France and Spain are on lockdown. The world is hunkering down, hoping this “angel of death” will pass by their door. With growing travel restrictions and spreading quarantines, the global mission enterprise is being forced to rethink business as usual. In times like these we need a Church that is prepared for the worst.

At this time, it is hard to know whether the draconian measures taken by many governments around the world will effectively blunt the spread of this disease. With a death rate seven times that of the typical flu, many countries are working to prevent their health systems from being overwhelmed such as in Italy. But what seems likely is that the world and our mission enterprise will be dealing with this virus for some time to come until effective vaccines or treatments are widely available.

So how should the global Church respond when the world is falling apart? It is clear that our current western model of doing church, where people attend mass events, is not capable of meeting the needs of the surrounding society when governments and health officials ban such mass events for legitimate health reasons.  Whether it is a virus, a war or persecution, the global Church needs to be spiritually prepared, well trained and effectively structured so that we can love and serve a frightened world in need.

As followers of Jesus, we need to approach such world events with faith and courage, not fear. If we are at the front of the long lines at Costco to hoard toilet paper just like everyone else, how can we be ministers of the gospel to a hurting world? We can’t. An unbeliever has no reason to listen to us or trust anything we say if we are just as fearful as they are—unable to live out the gospel in faith.

We need a Church that is equipping disciples to be disciple-makers, not passive audience members. We need church members who, on a moment’s notice, are as disciple-makers and church-planters in the absence of the usual pastoral leadership and large church meetings. A mass audience of people dependent upon one pastor for directions is not equipped to share the gospel and meet real needs in a crisis when things are at their worst. When a viral pandemic infects the world, bringing fear and isolation, we need the viral spread of trained disciple-makers and church-planters to spread the love of Jesus to a world in chaos. Many churches are working creatively to reach out to people in the midst of this crisis through modern technology. But that is no replacement for millions of equipped disciple-makers. Because we have relied so much on a mass audience approach to sharing the gospel, the global Church is now largely ill-prepared to deal with the current coronavirus crisis.

The methods and strategies currently being employed by the 1,053-plus Kingdom Movements growing around the world are precisely the kind of disciple-making and church-planting we need in times like this. The churches in these movements are small, usually around 10 to 20 people who are much better able to monitor the health of their individual members than in a large audience. This size of church is also well suited for monitoring and serving those people in their respective relational networks who may be ill and need help with meals, grocery shopping, etc. When it comes to dealing with the needs of individual people in crisis, small groups of committed, well-trained Jesus followers are much better able to deal with these needs than an impersonal, disconnected larger group of audience members.

It is my hope and prayer that this current global crisis will wake up the global Church to the reality that doing church as usual will not suffice as we face various crises going forward. It does not mean that we must do away with all large church gatherings. What it does mean is that every church needs to develop a small group strategy where each believer is trained and equipped to make disciples and lead small groups or churches. This can help a movement to develop now and will prepare us for the next crisis when large church gatherings are no longer possible. This current crisis is a wake up call for the global Church. The question is whether we will answer the call.

Tokyo 2010 and Its Impact Today

Ten years ago, almost 1,000 delegates from 73 countries got together for the Tokyo 2010 conference. In this issue we look back over the last ten years to see what impact this meeting has had on the course of world evangelization and to answer the legitimate question of “Why does Tokyo 2010 still matter today?” Is it possible that a meeting of 1,000 mission and church leaders could actually be making a difference 10 years later? That is what we want to look at in this issue and to take note of what God has done over the last 10 years in order to see what still remains to be done. I highly recommend Paul Eshleman’s article onThe State of the Unfinished Task” starting on page 19. It gives a great overview of where we have been, what we have accomplished and the challenges we still face.  There is still so much left to be done among the Frontier People Groups and so many more movements that need to be fostered in every unreached people and place, but we can rejoice at the great progress we have made over the last 10 years.

Ten years ago, at Tokyo 2010 making disciples was a major focus, but fostering movements of discipleship was not. Church Planting Movements were a minor topic of discussion regarding innovative new strategies. No one knew how many of these movements there were until mid-2017 when delegates from around the world met to form the 24:14 Coalition. When the people who were fostering these movements got together to compare notes, it was discovered that there were 472 of them.  Just three years later there are over 1000.

As our lead article starting on page 8 indicates, the most important result of Tokyo 2010 was the focus on making disciples and developing a structure for ongoing collaboration by all those church and mission leaders who want to train disciple-makers. Also take note of the wonderful article on Business for Movements starting on page 22, which reflects that the Tokyo 2010 structure has been adapted to include the latest movement strategies of today. If Tokyo 2010 has indeed provided an effective structure for collaboration through their Connect platform, ( then the impact of Tokyo 2010 could continue long into the future.


This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

There’s No Perfect Movement Recipe

There’s No Perfect Movement Recipe

When first married, I was a terrible cook. A friend of my mom gave us a Betty Crocker Cookbook as a wedding gift. I used it for years. It’s still in my kitchen drawer, looking like it’s been through World War Two with crumpled edges and soiled pages. Full of easy recipes, it will take you step-by-step through the process needed to make a wonderful entree or dessert. Read the directions, follow the steps, and voila…something delicious to eat was on the table.
Starting a Disciple Making Movement isn’t like following a recipe. I wish there were a few simple steps we could follow and out pops a movement. It’s not that easy. There are a host of recipes out there to compare. They may or may not lead to a movement in your location. Don’t get fixated on the DMM recipe. Starting movements is not about methods or formulas. Movements start through people.

Focus on people, prayer and a few core multiplication principles, and you’ll be more likely to see the multiplication growth you dream of. There is also just plain grit and perseverance needed. Let’s save that topic for another time. In this article, I want to focus on the vital importance of making deep, long-term investments in apostolically gifted disciples. These people are vital to seeing a movement take off. They may be rough around the edges and need lots of loving input, but it’s your job to find those people and raise them up.

Whether you are a trainer who walks alongside an indigenous leader, or a movement leader yourself, the multiplication of movements in your region will depend on the depth of investment you make in apostolically gifted people God gives you to mentor. 

Jesus and Paul

Jesus poured His life into a group of rough fishermen and a tax collector. He built deep relationships of love, trust, and mentoring with this group of men. When He left, they carried on the movement He had begun. Barnabas invested in Paul. The Apostle then mentored young Timothy and many others. They, in turn, trained other disciples. Those he’d traveled with, loved on, believed in, and poured into, passed on Paul’s message, life and teachings to thousands of others. 2 Tim. 2:2 is an important verse for us who are working to start movements. We use it to talk about generational growth and disciples making disciples. 
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Tim. 2:2. NIV)

In starting and sustaining Disciple Making Movements, remember…it’s all about people. A long-term, intensive investment in a few apostolically gifted men or women over the long-haul, is far more important than the exact methodology (recipe) you use to catalyze and grow a movement. 

Two Men, Two Strategies, Same Results

I recently was at a conference where movement leaders gathered to learn and collaborate. After one session, I sat at a table chatting with two leaders who had come. One had started 750 house churches in the last few years. The other man had started over 200. Both led notable movements in the same state of their country, among the same Unreached People Group. It was interesting to me that their methodologies varied significantly. One had used a storytelling approach, the other a community development strategy. What they had in common was that the same mentor invested and believed in them. Movements are being released around the world using various means. Some use this set of questions, some use that. Some train with these principles first, others emphasize other things. Many have an emphasis on the supernatural, some do not. Don’t get stuck on methodology! We get bogged down in those details so easily.

Investing in a Rebel

He’d been branded a rebel, and not without reason. Strong in personality and opinions, not everyone liked  him. I wasn’t sure why I did. I guess I saw something in him. He was determined and had a deep passion for the lost. He was willing to do what others weren’t. Going to a tough city that was known to be resistant to Christianity, he was kicked out of the apartments he rented more than 20 times. They would move yet again until they found new lodging. He wasn’t about to give up. Finances were tough, so he went to the big city and bought rolls of cloth. Going door to door he sold the material. He made enough money to provide for his wife and young kids in at least a minimal way.

When my husband and I visited their home, things shifted. We listened and prayed and trust developed. He somehow knew that I believed in him and his wife. Others in our organization didn’t think very highly ofhim. He didn’t fit the mold. Many had tried to “coach” him, but he had not been open to that. He resisted any form of control and was a bit of a tough personality to work with. Slowly, our relationship grew.

I threw out the word coaching and just asked if I could call him sometimes to hear how he was doing and pray. As I started doing this, he began to share the dreams God had put in his heart for his region. They were God-sized dreams. Our families grew close as we spent more time together. He began to listen to me differently as I shared principles with him. I listened to his ideas as well.

Defending him to the organizational leaders became part of my job. This brother and his wife needed freedom to move in apostolic ways without the normal restrictions and regulations common for most. That is not to say that he never needed correction or rebuke. It had to come from a place of trust and relationship though. His movement grew as miracles began to happen. Couples who couldn’t get pregnant began to receive healing and conceive. Demons were cast out. 

He needed help in multiplying leaders and not holding on to all the power. We worked on that. I challenged him from the Word as we studied together. We visited his home many times and he ours. I bought gifts for his kids and we shared many meals. His movement grew rapidly. I had the privilege of being a small part of it. “Apostolically Gifted” Leaders
I don’t use the term apostle as an office. The moment you start calling yourself “apostle this” or “apostle that” it raises major concern for me. What I am referring to in this article is the spiritual gift of the apostle as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28. All spiritual gifts are needed and important in launching a movement, but without an apostolically gifted person, a movement will struggle to take off. Identify people with this gift and invest in mentoring them toward multiplication growth.

Things to Remember When Mentoring Pioneer/Apostle-Type People

1. Discipleship is messy. 

Apostles seem to create more messy situations than others. As they launch into new things, take risks of faith, see miracles and operate in radical obedience, many unusual things happen. Some are exciting breakthroughs, others are messes that need to be sorted. If you are mentoring and walking with this kind of person, they may need wisdom for how to untangle messes in their own lives, and the lives of others. 
Don’t be put off by the problems they create, or when they rub others around them wrong. This is normal. These people don’t fit naturally in organizational structures and are often branded as radical. They need those who serve as go-betweens for them to help others understand them. Sometimes they need protection or for you to create a barrier between them and the organizational structure. 

2. Even strong people are fragile.

Those with an apostolic spiritual gift can come across as very strong. Apostolically gifted people need love and care as much as the next person. They are vulnerable to isolation due to the powerful ways God uses them. Having loving mentors who gently correct, notice when they aren’t doing well, and ask tough questions is important. They also need those who affirm and encourage them in a personal way.

3. Learn from and with them.

Coaching approaches are being embraced in many movements. A coach learns to ask good questions that help the coachees discover their own solutions. Apostolically gifted people are entrepreneurial. If you lead or mentor this kind of person, give them the freedom to experiment and try new things. Champion their effort, then help them evaluate. Don’t feel like you have to be the “teacher.” You may have more experience, but pull out the gold within them. Listen well to what they are thinking and doing. 

4. Giving access makes people feel valued. 

There are a few emerging leaders to whom I give an exceptional level of access. They can drop in on me, text and ask for a call on the weekend, or message me early in the morning. I will call them back right away. You can’t do that with everyone, but when you find someone with strong apostolic anointing, you may need to give them greater access to your time. In my experience, these people are not very good at scheduling appointments or coaching calls. Make space for that and be patient with them. This will be necessary if you want your relationship to go deep and for them to feel you value them.

5. Give those you mentor room to fail. 

Model a lifestyle of risk-taking. If they see that you sometimes fail, they will gain the courage to try new things. Tell stories of your church-planting and evangelism failures as well as successes. Particularly with younger people you are mentoring, create a safe place for them to share freely when they have blown it whether in a ministry-related task or personally. 

6. It has to be more than just ministry.

If you want to go deep in disciple-making relationships with the kind of people who will become leaders of thousands or tens of thousands, it will have to be about more than ministry.
You need to become true friends. The relationship becomes like family. That means spending lots of time together, relaxing, playing and working. Taking time to do this is part of what makes the kinds of mentoring relationships that lead to multiplication. 

A Consistent Investment

Filtering for the faithful and fruitful is an important movement principle. Once you find those entrepreneurial people, invest consistently. Love on them. Encourage and affirm. Spend time and money to build deep relationships that go the long haul.

Challenge and correct. Rebuke and exhort. Train and empower. The fruit will be multiplication. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow Christ.” Behind him came Timothy, Titus, Silas and a host of others. They followed him because he had invested in them. He had taught them how to live, start churches, make disciples, and do the work of the kingdom.
Who are you training and investing in? Could they say the same?

This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

Financing Missions 10 years after 2010

Financing Missions 10 years after 2010

2010  The Tokyo 2010 Global Mission was a pivotal year in global mission.

Consultation focused on reaching the remaining least reached peoples. The Tokyo Declaration1 made it clear that we have the material resources and funding to reach those peoples. Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization provided a global forum in which evangelical leaders explored issues facing global mission. The Cape Town Commitment2 called for “self-sacrifice and generous giving as the marks of true discipleship to Christ;” interdependence in giving and receiving; and “personal compassion, respect and generosity towards the poor and needy.” But did Tokyo 2010 and Cape Town 2010 impact mission giving?

State of Christian Giving

Reliable statistical information on mission-giving is extremely difficult to find and analyse. However, there are indications that there has been an increase in missiongiving since 2010. The income from Christians in the world was about US$60 trillion in 2019.That is up from US$18 trillion in 2000, giving an increase of about 6.54% per year. In 2019 giving to Christian causes was US$1.010 trillion compared to US$320 billion in 2000, giving an increase of 6.24% per annum while the income of global foreign mission organizations was US$60 billion compared to US$18 billion in 2000—an increase of 6.63% per year.

Christians in 2019 proportionally gave slightly more to global missions than in 2010. More people, also in poorer countries, gave more to charities, including churches and mission organizations. In Kenya, more than half of the people donated money to charity in 2018, compared to less than a third in the 2010.4

In the USA, Christians gave more to international causes.5 Giving to international affairs in the USA increased by 9.6% from 2017 to 2018, totalling $22.88 billion. Commentators suggest that churches should focus more on international outreach to increase income! Christians may be shifting their giving from churches to other faithbased organizations, including mission organizations. Compassion International increased support from $130 million in 2000 to almost $820 million in 2017.

Only 6% of the annual global church expenses goes to foreign missions7 with 82% spent on church ministry. For every $1.00 of Christian giving less than $.01 goes to reaching unreached peoples. Much giving is focused on Christian relief and development organizations and mission in already reached parts of the world.

Limited financial resources directed towards unreached peoples is one of the five major challenges to completing the Great Commission.8 This is also clear from the 2018 GLOBAL Trends in Giving Report.9 The top five causes of Christian donors surveyed are children and youth (17%), faith and spirituality (11%), health and wellness (11%), animals and wildlife (10%), and human and social services (8%).

Trends since 2010—Stewardship, generosity and giving as lifestyle

One of Cape Town 2010’s greatest contributions was the understanding that a lifesyle of generous giving flows out of effective discipleship. The focus on biblical stewardship (how we manage God’s resources), generous living (how we share God’s resources) and kingdom focused giving (how we give God’s financial resources) became a guiding principle after Cape Town 2010.

Initiatives such as Generosity Path,10 the 40 Acts Generosity Challenge,11 the Christian Stewardship Network12 and even secular initiatives such as Giving Tuesday13 played a major role in encouraging generosity and giving as a lifestyle. Stewardship Theology became influential through people such as Dr. R. Scott Rodin.14 Video stories like the one about Mizoram Christians in India showed how even poor Christians give sacrificially to mission. Many theological institutions across the world teach courses on stewardship, generosity and giving. Pastors are equipped to encourage giving to their churches and ministries, including mission agencies.

Increased fundraising focus, building trust and raising awareness

Western Christian non-profits already recognized fundraising as an important ministry in 2010. However, many mission organizations were suspicious about asking for money. It was seen as not trusting God enough for financial needs. That has changed during the last 10 years with many mission agencies now increasing their focus on fundraising and even employing specialist fundraisers. The Ministry Fundraising Network15 launched as a support and training network for ministry fundraisers while books such as Rob Martin’s When Money Goes on Mission: Fundraising and Giving in the 21st Century16 are improving the skills of mission fundraisers in especially the Global South.

With corruption in the Global Church estimated at US$68 billion per year,17 churches, ministries and organizations need to improve their financial management and governance practices to encourage more giving. Various national and regional initiatives developed since 2010 to build trust in giving. One example is NABLA18 in Egypt that works with churches and ministries to unlock giving in the Egyptian Church to reach communities for Christ. These initiatives came together in Global Trust Partners.19

Two-thirds of US churches engage in disaster relief.20 This suggests that urgency and emotion affect giving among churches. Good communication is clearly one of the major drivers to increased giving for Christian relief and development organizations. The focus on unreached people groups is much less prominent.21  Without greater awareness and information, Christians will not give more to mission among unreached people groups. The Issachar Initiative22  was an important catalyst for such awareness. It increased giving through its Summits and Count for Zero curriculum, but the average pastor still knows very little about unreached people groups. 

Approaches to mission giving

  • Church facilitated giving: Members of churches give financially to mission initiatives either related to the local church, denomination or that are known to the pastor or church members. A biblical understanding of giving, congregational relationships and exposure to international needs all are associated with church facilitated giving to global mission and international causes.23
  • Pooled giving and peer-to-peer fundraising:24  Donors pool their funds together to increase the amount available to give and the impact of their giving. They form giving circles or investment groups to distribute funds and encourage more giving. Such collaboration also connects donors with ministries. The European Great Commission Collaboration25  is an example of donor-to-donor and donor-to-ministry collaboration to facilitate increased funding for strategic mission initiatives.
  • Business as Mission (BAM) giving and investing: Business as mission has become very important in reaching unreached peoples. That requires investment in and funding of businesses. BAM Global wrote a report26  on how this could best be done. A number of investment funds have been launched to facilitate more investment in BAM enterprises.
  • Technology giving: Electronic giving and online giving platforms are increasingly important in mission giving as well. Giving via mobile phones is now one of the best ways to give in Africa, while Give.net27 facilitates increased giving to ministries based in the UK. It has become essential to make it easy for people to donate online or with their mobile device. Crowdfunding and other forms of technology driven giving could also generate interest in giving to specific causes.
  • Personal fundraising and individual giving: Personal support was always a pillar of mission giving with prospective missionaries needing to raise a certain amount. That caused serious problems with people who did not have the access to funding. In today’s unequal global Christian world (Africa has 33.5% of global evangelical population but only 3% of evangelical income) this has serious implications for how personal and ministry funds are raised.

Global migration and interaction make it much easier for Christian workers in poorer countries to raise funds from friends, family or contacts in other parts of the world. Support raising has also become more innovative with sponsored events, asset giving (perhaps a car in the USA, or a cow in Africa!), selling products, church support, blogs and giving champions to name but a few. Conclusion

We praise God for the growing generosity and increased mission-giving among Christians worldwide since Tokyo 2010 and Cape Town 2010. However, challenges to see more mission giving to ministries among Unreached People Groups still remain.

Mission giving is a spiritual battle. Those involved in encouraging mission giving essentially aim to free Christians from the love of money, which is a root cause of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10), and then mobilize those people to engage in God’s kingdom. Satan will do whatever he can to prevent that. People involved in mobilizing funds for mission face spiritual attacks. Leaders of global mission giving initiatives need more prayer and spiritual covering.

While biblical stewardship and generous giving improved in the last decade, kingdom focused giving, where the spiritual needs are greatest, has not necessarily seen the same increase. As we encourage more mission giving, we have to focus on the head (the biblical foundations for giving and mission), the heart (creating awareness so that people are emotionally connected to mission causes) and the hands (engaging people in practical action among Unreached People Groups). Mission agencies and Christian relief and development organizations must collaborate to build on each other’s strengths and to facilitate more giving to ministry among Unreached People Groups.



  1. Tokyo_2010_Declaration.pdf

  2. ctcommitment#capetown

  3. 3  Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo, eds. World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2020) https://

  4. 4  CAF World Giving Index Tenth Edition (London: CAF, October 2019) accessed 2 January 2020 docs/default-source/about-us-publications/caf_wgi_10th_ edition_report_2712a_web_101019.pdf

  5. 5


  7. 7 Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo, eds. World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2020) sites/13/2019/04/1EvangelismInfographic.pdf

  8. 8

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  17. 17 sites/13/2019/04/StatusofGlobalChristianity20191.pdf

  18. 18

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  20. 20  Olsen, Andrew ‘Evangelicals and International Aid Insights from a landscape survey of U.S. churches’ (Medford, MA: The Fletcher School, Tufts University, accessed 1 January 2020) 

  21. 21

  22. 22

  23. 23  Allison Schnable. “Religion and Giving for International Aid: Evidence from a Survey of US Church Members.”  https://

  24. 24

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This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

Tokyo 2010 Unreached Peoples Intercession Task Force: Ten Years Later

Tokyo 2010 Unreached  Peoples Intercession Task Force: Ten Years Later

Ten years have passed since the Unreached Peoples Intercession Task Force paper was released in Tokyo, outlining the state of prayer for Unreached People Groups around the world, and proposing strategies to accelerate progress in reaching, discipling and seeing transformation among these. The task force not only worked but prayed. Ten years later, it is clear that God heard and responded!

In 2010, according to Joshua Project, well over 6,000 people groups had too few indigenous followers of Christ with sufficient means to evangelize their own people groups without outside assistance. Less than 200 Christward movements were known. Recently, researchers cataloged over 1,000 movements to Christ, where each spanned at least four generations, and the movements collectively represented over 785 people groups and 70 million believers! Research also indicates over 3,000 movement engagements in which a team (or teams) employs strategies seeking to multiply movements of believers. Robby Butler of MultMove has said, “Prayer is the first domino to fall” and in these past 10 years more focused, fervent and sustained prayer has grown within these movements and within the Church at large.ntly, researchers cataloged over 1,000 movements to Christ, where each spanned at least four generations, and the movements collectively represented over 785 people groups and 70 million » believers!

More partnerships have emerged in the prayer and missions movements, and these are converging. Prayers are being answered and partnering efforts are bearing fruit. Only recently have we seen networks, organizations and denominations willing to collaborate outside their own boundaries. Prayer and mission leaders actively seek ways to better integrate their efforts. However, much ground remains to see these fully connected and coordinated.

Prayer strategists and prayer strategies have emerged. More than a ‘prayer coordinator’ or ‘facilitator’, prayer strategists serve on leadership teams in networks, organizations and denominations. They focus on maximizing and synchronizing prayer efforts at every level to best effect. Prayer is strategy, envisioning Godsized reality straight from His heart, and co-laboring to pray it into being under His direction. Incorporating both apostolic and prophetic vision allows leadership to keep their ears open to heaven as they evaluate options in light of God’s direction.

Advances in technology and communications offer innumerable ways to expand prayer and collaboration, even globally. Conferencing tools such as Zoom, social media platforms like WhatsApp, smartphone applications, live streaming services through internet, satellite and radio, and many other technologies have hardly been tapped into. Prayer communities are discovering that John 17 unity really can emerge as relationships deepen while praying, worshiping and connecting over the internet. It is now possible to build relationships through these new technologies, serving to expand prayer efforts exponentially.

Annual prayer initiatives now include every major megasphere. 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World during Ramadan was only the beginning. After 25 years, we now see previously unimaginable breakthroughs in the Muslim megasphere. The Hindu and Buddhist megaspheres have similar annual prayer initiatives. Prayer changes megaspheres!

Prayer prepares for the coming of His kingdom. During the 1990s, we saw incredible fruit through AD2000 & Beyond Movement’s Prayer and Spiritual Warfare Task Force and other prayer movements. Even the church-planting movements birthed in the 1990s relied on extraordinary prayer as foundational. Those approaches or prayer strategies continue to be expanded and applied.

As believers we reproduce what we model. Walking in conversational relationship with God and practicing His presence continually, followers of Jesus—both individually and corporately—are growing in intimacy with God and in listening prayer. Prayer and fasting have increased greatly these ten years. Journaling— individually and in teams—helps preserve both what is heard from God and His faithfulness in answering. Meetings frequently incorporate listening times followed by members sharing what they are sensing from the Word and the Spirit. As leaders model strong inner lives with Christ, this is naturally reproduced in team members.

Onsite prayer is becoming the norm for gatherings of all sizes, supported by virtual prayer teams. Prayer is more than an opening word to the Lord and a closing benediction. Prayer teams undergird significant gatherings 24/7 in onsite prayer rooms as well as being embedded in the proceedings. Prayer ministry is often offered to participants to refresh and heal. Prayer teams may also lead workshops, segments in plenary sessions and more.

Research on the state of prayer is highlighting gaps. A recent OCI study of the state of prayer in a particular region was commissioned by SRG through visionSynergy; its results informed strategies for closing gaps and better connecting prayer promoters, prayer requesters and intercessors. The Extraordinary Prayer Task Force grew from this research and offers a venue for building relationship between prayer, church, and mission leaders towards seeing a tenfold increase in the quantity and quality of prayer for the unreached. They do this through bimonthly Zoom calls, a shared calendar and resources, and a weekly Personal Intercessory Team (PIT) Crew call which includes listening prayer on macro issues facing the Church.

Prayer mobilization, training and partnership have accelerated and grown more sophisticated. The partnering movement has helped leaders develop their networks internally and helped prayer and missions movements to partner together. Prayer covering extends beyond general prayer teams to include PIT Crews. These are small, intimate, relational groups which frequently communicate back and forth with mission leaders, directing energies together toward seeing God’s kingdom come. Children and youth are joining both prayer and missions; the global Children in Prayer Movement is amazing and continues to accelerate. Prayer training is being adapted into forms commonly used bys or Disciple Making Movements to enable reproducible, scalable training in prayer.

24/7 Prayer Canopies are forming at local, regional, national and international levels. Even as this paper is released, discussions are underway by several global ministries collaborating on WorldPrays, seeking continuous intercession to close the gaps and see God’s kingdom come fully in every people and place. Establishing permanent lighthouses of continuous prayer and worship as a beachhead for the kingdom of God—even among restricted access peoples and places—raises the waterline of God’s presence and opens doors for the gospel. Many of these groups are becoming missional themselves, raising up, training and sending out missionaries.

Arts and worship—as prophetic prayer and spiritual warfare—are often part of these prayer beachheads and strategies. Our understanding of what it means to engage with God has expanded to include artistic expressions in the context of worship, prayer and the Word. This include graphic arts, dance, mime and many other ways of showing forth His praises. Procession puts these on the public stage with ministries like March for Jesus.

Abundant gospel sowing is foundational to movements to Christ. The Word of God is foundational. Prayer undergirds efforts to bring the Word in the heart language and expression of every people and place. Pray for Zero, for example, is a global collaboration of intercession and Bible translation. For oral learners, the International Orality Network members have been pioneering oral means of bringing the Word of God to every person; their leaders lean heavily on prayer. Prayer is a powerful tool in direct evangelism.

Information fuels intercession. From simply identifying areas unreached by the gospel to opening our eyes to the spiritual underpinnings of current realities, research is as critical to prayer as prayer is critical to research. The new Thirty-One Largest Frontier People Groups is an example of a prayer strategy birthed out of research. The Year of the Frontier that began in 2019 and the Year of the Upper Room for 2020 are highlighting the latest research on the state of missions for focused intercession.

Prayer for member health touches many ways God brings restoration, transformation, healing, deliverance, conflict resolution and identificational repentance toward reconciliation. Specialized ministries collaborate in the Global Member Care Network. A regional strategy team leader recently said, “the two most essential resources for our mission team are our bi-weekly prayer and worship times as a team and our monthly Hydrate call.” In the Hydrate ministry a remote prayer team prophetically prays over a field team on a monthly basis for healing, refreshment and strengthening. With the world in turmoil, we are grateful for crisis debrief teams that help field workers and believers better process and be restored following crises. Integrating prayer into crisis response results in greater fruitfulness and in more effective response and resilience by the workers themselves.

Prayer is yearning for the now-but-not-yet kingdom to fully come. God’s purposes for His body are to grow up into the full measure of the stature of Jesus, who is coming back for a bride equally yoked with Him. God is calling the historical Church to match the passion, obedience and zeal of fellowships emerging in movements; are we willing to pay a high cost to follow Jesus? As we see prayer and mission movements converging, God uncovers greater understanding, deepens our practice of intimacy, strengthens our fellowship with Him and one another, and increases our fruitfulness and joy. Maranatha! Come soon, Lord Jesus!

Note:  A comprehensive, 32-page version of this Tokyo 2010 Unreached Peoples Intercession Task Force update is available at uploads/2020/01/Tokyo-2010-Intercession-Task-ForceTen-Years-update.pdf


This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

Tokyo 2010 and the Shift Toward Movements

Tokyo 2010 and the Shift  Toward Movements

Welcome to this edition of Mission Frontiers, which looks back at the Tokyo 2010 Conference and asks, “what has developed since then?”

Before I say more on Tokyo 2010, I am aware that many of our readers were aware that plans were underway for a Tokyo 2020 conference. Given the realities of the COVID-19 crisis, that has been cancelled. While our focus here is looking back to 2010, I wanted to be sure we didn’t fail to mention this.

Back to my question, “what has developed since  2010?” In a world of conferences and publications and great speeches this is a fair question, and each article in this edition seeks to give an update. Each is written by the same person who spoke and wrote on the same topics back in 2010.

2010 in Perspective

The common understanding is that in 2010 there were four conferences commemorating the great 1910 Edinburgh gathering. Ralph Winter did note that four of the 2010 celebrations were especially significant (Tokyo, Edinburgh, Cape Town, and Boston). However, there were conferences overtly aimed at revisiting the 1910 gathering in Aarhus, Denmark; Pune, India; Strasbourg, France; St. Paul, Minnesota; Yangon, Myanmar; and Auckland, New Zealand (see Allen Yeh’s excellent overview of Tokyo in IJFM, 27:3 Fall 2010, page 117).

Why did Dr. Winter emphasize the four that he did? Tokyo was about mission agencies, Edinburgh was about ecumenical and denominational diversity, Cape Town was about evangelical cooperation in ecclesial structures and Boston was academic.

The four “main” gatherings were held on every major continent, with one glaring exception: Latin America! Given the tremendous explosion of mission sending from Latin America, this seems to be a glaring paradox.

1910 to 2000 to 2010: a prophetic shift?

The theme of Tokyo was selected to echo John Mott’s 1910 slogan related to evangelization of all peoples, and perhaps also the famous slogan, “A church for every people by the year 2000.”

The vocabulary shift in both cases is not insignificant: disciple-making instead of merely evangelism and disciplemaking as the essence of church-planting. The shift from evangelism to disciple-making took place between 1910 and 2010, of course. But in many ways the selection of the term disciple, and not church for the main theme of 2010 was almost prophetic, as the more recent emphasis in missiology on Disciple Making Movements was not in any way obvious in Tokyo.

Tokyo’s Fourfold Purpose

The promotional efforts leading up to Tokyo 2010 emphasized four purposes: to celebrate what God has done over the last 100 years since Edinburgh 1910, to cast vision for the future (assessing what remains to be done), to introduce new models in frontier missions (for reaching the least reached peoples), and to facilitate coordination among mission organizations to fully engage and disciple every people with the gospel of the kingdom.

Those purposes were then the framework around which the tracks for the conference were developed. And the articles in this edition of MF will reflect, we hope, what progress or challenges may have emerged since then.

Intended Outcomes

The Tokyo 2010 conference gave special attention, as we have noted, to the disciple-making dimension of the Great Commission and aimed at the integration of this into every aspect of the consultation. However, beyond the gathering itself, there were several stated aims: 1) Initiating a global research project, both before, during and following the consultation to assess the progress of discipleship in every people of the world. 2) Facilitation of an inter-mission coordination and follow-up with plans made to fully engage all the peoples of the world with disciple-making teams.

I have mentioned in prior MF editions that we are in an era of “the movement movement,” meaning, that movements of all sorts are a major focus in missiology: Church Planting Movements, Disciple Multiplication Movements, Insider Movements, etc. Did this spring from Tokyo?

In an environment in which progress and growth go viral and begin to take on the qualities of a movement, it is often difficult to trace with certainty all the precursors, causes, and catalysts.

What we do know, looking around now as we look back to Tokyo 2010, is we know more about the extent of discipleship progress than perhaps at any time in history since the book of Acts (see aim number 1 above), and we know that there is a rapidly growing number of movements that, in various ways, emphasizes discipleship (aim number 2).

There were certainly other outcomes from Tokyo: deepened relationships, an incarnational expression of the multi-cultural and multi-national shift in mission sending and thinking, and a deeper probing of the boundaries between what we could know about the least reached and what we didn’t know as researchers gathered and compared notes.

I am sometimes asked, about this or that conference, whether such gatherings are worth the cost of money in rooms and food and travel, and the real costs in terms of peoples’ time and focus while in actual attendance and in preparation. I know there are conferences I have attended for which I would need to politely say, “no, not worth it” (and I am sure my readers can add examples). However, looking back at Tokyo 2010, I believe God is still making withdrawals on His investment.

This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

Review of Tokyo 2010

A Global Mission Consultation & Celebration

Review of Tokyo 2010

The Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation, held May 11-15, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan was a celebration of the past and an embracing of the future.  The event was hosted by the Japanese Church and sponsored jointly by Asia Mission Association, Cross Global Link, Global Network of Mission Structures and Third World Mission Association.  A total of 967 delegates, representing 73 countries, attended. Another 927 observers from Japan joined and approximately 550 Japanese volunteers served participants.  Approximately 75% of all participants came from African, Asian, Latin American and Pacific nations.

A full understanding of the Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation must include a historical perspective including the Edinburgh gatherings in 1910 and 1980 and the vision of Dr. Ralph Winter.

The Journey from Edinburgh 1910 to Tokyo 2010

10 years ago, four gatherings, including Tokyo 2010, celebrated Edinburgh 1910’s hundredth anniversary. Because of John R. Mott’s extensive labors, the event in 1910 marked the first time in modern history that Protestant mission leaders and missionaries came together to consider how to finish global missions. Mission agencies from Europe and North America chose most delegates.

The 1910 conference generated a concrete basis for global level coordination of mission strategies and a continuation committee to follow up.  However, the Mott leadership team failed to conceive of mission agencies outside of North America and Europe—those representing missionaries from the remaining two-thirds of the world! At that time only a handful of agencies existed in these places, but they were overlooked.

In 1980, another global meeting, the World Consultation on Frontier Missions, held once again at Edinburgh, adopted the slogan: “A Church for Every People by the Year 2000.”

Here is a comparative look at the 1910, 1980, and the Tokyo 2010 conferences:


 Dr. Winter had a vision for a global consultation and gathering of global mission leadership focused on the unfinished task.  Before his death in 2009, he wrote extensively about the need for a global-level association of mission agencies and his desire to see a hundredth anniversary event in 2010 organized following the format of the Edinburgh 1910 meeting. Closely involved in Tokyo 2010 preparations, he participated in each planning committee meeting and the conference plans up until his death.

Tokyo 2010 Focus and Outcomes

The Global Mission Consultation & Celebration featured evening sessions of local “celebrations” open to anyone from Japanese churches. However, during the day, the consultation dealt in depth with subjects of frontier mission strategy and global coordination. Tokyo 2010 gathered representatives of mission-sending countries, large and small mission associations and agencies, mission- minded churches and other individuals with the desire to reach the final frontiers of the Great Commission. Mission leaders and innovators comprised most delegates. Many came from small missions, and most came with a wealth of cross-cultural mission experience focused on reaching out beyond frontiers.  Delegates also represented churches and other interested institutions. 

 “Closure” Focus

Tokyo 2010 promoted a target of “closure.” The keynote address by Dr. Paul Eshleman was titled State of the Unfinished Task. He discussed reaching the remaining 3,500 unengaged people groups.  Dr. Eshleman and his teammates led the daily “Casting Vision” track with workshops titled: (1) Engaging All Peoples, (2) World Evangelization, (3) Scripture for Every People, (4) Reaching Oral Learners, and (5) Church Planting Movements. Dr. Eshleman circulated a “Tokyo 2010 Commitments” form which asked for delegates to commit to engage Unreached People Groups. 171 commitments were received.

“Making Disciples of All Peoples in Our Generation” The vision and watchword of the Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation focused on the breadth of the unfinished task (representatives from all peoples) and on the depth of that task (making disciples). While Tokyo 2010 maintained the “closure” focus of Edinburgh 1910 and 1980, it also focused on an equally important dimension of the Great Commission—the purpose of our going, which is to teach all peoples to obey everything Jesus commanded. 

Tokyo 2010 Declaration

In response to the call and vision of “Making Disciples of All Peoples in Our Generation” and as a pledge of Tokyo 2010 delegates, the Tokyo Declaration was adopted in Tokyo. The Declaration makes clear that the Great Commission is fundamentally about transformation at every level—from the individual, to the family, to society as a whole.

Plenary and Workshop Focus

Tokyo 2010 sessions included twelve plenary speakers with topics such as The Biblical Foundation for Discipling Every People by Dr. Marv Newell and Global Peoples and Diaspora Missiology by Dr. Enoch Wan. Approximately 70 other presenters led workshops and discussion groups.  Tokyo 2010 archives of these presentations and more, including pictures and videos, are available at


Based upon a desire to bring new information to the missionaries of the world on what remains to be done in the unfinished task of world evangelism, the Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation was organized into four major tracks. The first track, Celebration, reflected on the last one hundred years of working towards fulfilling the Great Commission. Presentations focused on what God is presently doing through mission movements around the world and what we can learn from one another.


The second track, Casting Vision, looked forward to what remains to fully engage all the peoples of the world with the gospel. Special emphasis was given to least reached peoples currently with little or no missionary presence. Delegates were challenged to consider their contribution toward seeing the entire world fully engaged with disciple-making teams.  

The third track, New Models, investigated Disciple Making Movements impacting major spheres and religious blocs. How is God bringing the gospel to some of the least-reached areas of the world, many of which are unreached due to the difficulty of sending long-term missionaries? Are there new fruit-bearing models for missionary sending?

The fourth track, Coordination, looked at ways to work together and to listen and learn from one another in order to finish the task. How do we keep the conversation going and develop cooperative plans to move forward with the collective message He gives us?

The idea behind these workshops and taskforces was to look in depth at four interrelated dimensions of the Great Commission:

1) From where have we come?

2) What remains to be done?

3) What is presently working?

4) How can we join together to take the gospel to where it needs to go?

Europe “Come Over and Help Us” Plea Stefan Gustavsson of Sweden pleaded with delegates, “Come over and help us!” His plea echoed the call of the man in Paul’s Macedonian vision almost 2000 years ago. In his plenary address, Gustavsson portrayed the stark reality of Europe, where the vast majority of the population has turned to secularism, atheism and agnosticism. What followed was perhaps the most moving response during the entire consultation, as Dr. Yong Cho came to the podium with tears in his eyes and as the entire assembly began to cry out to God for the peoples of Europe. The Holy Spirit moved in perhaps the most authentic and unforgettable part of the whole conference.

Online Networking Tool

One of the strategy tools announced at Tokyo 2010 was the Last Mile Calling, a fully secure, on-line networking platform to enable members of the global mission community to stay connected. That platform proved to be unsustainable, but the Global Great Commission Network developed and launched a replacement called Connect.


The Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation was structured to be an important opportunity for delegates to learn from one another. As one delegate described it, “I cannot express enough how much the Tokyo 2010 meeting impacted my life personally. I believe it was a watershed moment not only for me but for the Church and its mission. For me, it represented a significant shift in my spiritual journey and a broadening of my missional thinking.”

The many and varied participants in missions that came together at Tokyo 2010 adopted the Tokyo Declaration and pledged to work together. The story and impact of Tokyo 2010 continues to be written and experienced.

This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

Viewing Missional Collaboration as an Ecosystem

Viewing Missional Collaboration as an Ecosystem

Seeing ourselves as part of a missions ecosystem equips leaders to effectively navigate and collaborate in today’s Great Commission context.

 We have entered a crucial period in the progress of the Great Commission, which will be marked by uncertainty, complexity and the inability to predict or respond to overwhelming changes in our world. The global Church and its missions movements are vast, complex, and diverse. Acting with biblical commitment in this complicated situation requires individual and collective wisdom. 

In this new decade, participating in collaboration will be essential, and it will change missionary work. This next missional environment requires reinterpreting how missions organizations and churches from everywhere fit into a larger context, and knowing how these parts can behave, connect and interact better with each other. 

Most of us have been influenced to think from a mechanistic view, where individual parts are each examined to see how they work towards a common goal. However, biologists, urban planners, sociologists and software developers realized that when they look at the parts as a whole and how they relate to each other in a given context, other complex and multidimensional dynamics are identified, thus overcoming a mechanistic vision. They use an ecosystem approach. 

Because of the multifaceted and collaborative nature of modern missions, I believe this ecosystem perspective provides a better way to view the dynamics of today’s missions context. 

Ecosystems – Living Environments and Functional Relationships

An ecosystem is "a system, or group of interconnected elements, that interact as a community of organisms within its environment."1 Found throughout nature, these form from various living beings and environmental factors. Each organizes in organic processes, where the parties interact in different ways with each other and with their environments, creating a new combination of networks of relationships. 

They are organic environments designed by God (Colossians 1:16a) to maintain and promote life. They are masterpieces from God from which we can learn. And, the qualities and behaviors that characterize ecosystems provide insight into how collaborative organizational systems work. 

Ecosystems have a habitat and are made up of a diversity of reproducible organisms. They have a complex network of relationships between parts and each is in a dynamic balance. An abrupt change could produce imbalance or even the extinction of the ecosystem, but at the same time ecosystems have the capacity to adapt to environmental changes resulting in resilience for their sustainability

The interaction of resources and information between and among the parties can generate new possibilities or capacities that cannot arise from the individual parties. Healthy interactions in an ecosystem – such as mutualism, symbiosis and commensalism – benefit all the involved parts. On the other hand, unhealthy interactions in an ecosystem, like competition, parasitism and predation, could result in one part could being destroyed by another. 

These interactions go on to develop their own structure which adapts over time, to the extent that learning occurs, and information is exchanged. 

Mission Environments as Ecosystems

Most people and organizations are part of several ecosystems at once, such as networks of interpersonal relationships (including social networks), and networks of ministries or a missions movement. For example, in Latin America missions networks like COMIBAM or the Wycliffe Global Alliance include churches (local and denominations), agencies (with multiple modalities and histories), training centers, theological institutions, and other local, regional and global mission networks. All interact multidimensionally and within diverse contexts: theological, denominational, religious, economic, political, social, linguistic, cultural, ethnic, geographical, etc. 

Applying the science of ecosystems to missions and church environments, what can we learn? This question invites us to reinterpret life in the Body of Christ in terms of identity and behavior, understanding that, in itself, the Body is also an ecosystem. 

There are key organisms. A ministry ecosystem has a variety of people and organizations from which some emerge as key parts offering the ecosystem essential dynamics that promote overall sustainability. The implication is that if an ecosystem is not working well, certain components may be missing. Identifying, honoring and inviting others to participate are, therefore, essential ecosystem functions. The diversity of the parts is a characteristic of the Body of Christ, and in the same way an ecosystem is a diverse community. 

Organisms in an ecosystem interact. When leaders of organizations within the ecosystem behave in a relational manner, according to the Gospel of Jesus, this improves the benefits obtained through mutually beneficial interactions, and reduces the damage created through antagonistic interactions. Also, the strength of an ecosystem is proportional to the diversity of its members because greater diversification decreases dependence on a particular function or organization.  

The ecosystem is adaptable. In a world where change is irregular and unpredictable, the habitat undergoes harsh transformations. For example, an unexpected social event or the departure of a key organism from the community can force a quick change. It is important to have the ability to manage change. Unlike species in biological ecosystems, leaders can forecast future conditions, and create strategies and structures designed to reduce damage and uncertainty. Intentional missiological reflection helps analyze the habitat and discern routes to the future. 

Just because there is an ecosystem does not mean that it is healthy or functional. Networks and strategic alliances can become sick. Leaders are the guardian of community health, and they should promote actions that promote life in biblical peace and spiritual unity. 

The sustainability of an organizational ecosystem involves healthy collaboration. Values ​​that generate harmonious behavior and satisfactory engagement among organisms must be adopted. A shared vision needs to unite them. 

Do you see yourself as part of an organizational ecosystem? How can you discover if you are in one and if it’s healthy? Consider these questions: 

  • Does each organization identify itself as part of the community or habitat and manifest a sense of belonging?
  • Do they value diversity and promote others to be part?
  • Does each organization have clear multidimensional functions in the environment?
  • Do parties behave and collaborate as expected?
  • How do they sustain life and promote healthy relationships?
  • How do they deal with unhealthy relationships?
  • How do they react to unexpected changes?
  • How do they relate to other mission ecosystems?
  • What collective wisdom is being put into action? 

From the perspective of ecosystems, there is much to learn. From this context, we are each a part of a larger organic whole. Life is organic! 

Considerations for Collaborative Ecosystems in Missions

Understanding our missions environment (whether network, movement or other) from an ecosystem approach and behaving accordingly, can bring new relational and collaborative dimensions that enhance Great Commission efforts. This can also help us make greater use of collective wisdom and solve pending challenges Organizations desiring to model ecosystem principles should consider the following: 

  • Developing awareness that missions and church life is organic and not merely transactional or business. We are part of a whole, and it is not just your organization.
  • Overcoming the philosophy of utilitarianism that has done so much damage. Interactions between organizations must be born and maintained within the Great Commandment of love of neighbor.
  • Identifying the behaviors that build an ecosystem culture and commit to acting on those – collaboration, information flow, and resource sharing.
  • Mapping ecosystems to discern the environment; to know the diversity of the parties and their functions, relationships, and missions processes; to study how they behave and interrelate; and to discover what is missing.
  • Dealing with unhealthy interactions, such as organizational ego, individualism, indifference, competitiveness and predation.
  • Adapting for change and community learning. Experiences and knowledge must be combined to respond well and innovate.
  • Reflecting on the implications of an ecosystem where there are relationships with organisms with important influence on decisions, economic power, and varied cultural background. 


The concept of ecosystems is a useful metaphor for discussing the multidimensional conditions, characteristics and dynamics that influence missions communities. Going deeper on this issue can take collaborative networks to another level as the ecosystem concept challenges the way in which a community participates. 

The wisdom achieved together encourages innovative solutions. It enables shared commitment and vision in God's mission with others. The ecosystem concept encourages us think like biologists as we study, care for, and promote Kingdom life and catalyze processes that benefit networks, movements and the missions environment in which we participate. 

We should not allow the next decade to be determined by our inaction, but rather by the way we work together to shape of the next ten years of missions. Each organization must identify the ecosystems of which it is a part and make collaboration a priority.

  1. (Accesed on Feb 20, 2019).

This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

Revisiting the Tokyo Declaration

Revisiting the Tokyo Declaration

We are now 10 years removed from the Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation which took place in May of 2010. On the final day of that consultation, 1000 international delegates took the decisive step of adopting the Tokyo Declaration as a basis for ongoing networking and collaboration. The intent of this Declaration from its inception was not to be a stagnant document, but rather the dynamic basis on which Great Commission activities and collaboration would take place. It is therefore appropriate that the Declaration be revisited with key portions highlighted as we commemorate the consultation’s anniversary.

Our Message

At the outset the Declaration states:

We set forth this declaration in obedience to Christ’s final command, as a means of calling Christ followers everywhere to whole-heartedly embrace and earnestly engage in “making disciples of every people in our generation.”

One may question why it is so important to extend a clarion call to Christ followers worldwide to engage in “making disciples of every people in our generation.” The answer to that question boils down to two realities.

First is the reality of humankind’s spiritual condition. All people, everywhere, are lost apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Sadly, every individual is a sinner by nature, choice and practice. That condition is universal. The tragic result of man’s sinfulness is alienation from God. That alienation leads to everlasting death. (Rom. 6:23)  But as tragic as that is, the consequence of man’s sin extends beyond the human experience. Creation itself is in bondage to corruption and subject to futility. (Rom. 8:18-21)  Consequently, both humankind and the physical world are in a desperate plight.

But God, in His grace, provided a remedy and this leads to the second reality.  Out of love (1 John 4:9-10), God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile the world to Himself. (John 3:16) Through Jesus’ vicarious death on a cross and victorious resurrection from the grave, mankind is brought into a restored relationship with God. God’s justice for the penalty of sin was satisfied by Jesus’ atoning death on man’s behalf. And here is the really amazing part: God offers forgiveness of all sins and salvation to anyone—living anywhere, in any age— who repents and believes in Christ’s redemptive work. (Rom. 1:5,16,17; 3:21-26)

Therefore, the message which grounds the Great Commission is clear: 1) salvation is found in none other (Acts 4:12) nor in any other way (John 14:6), than through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, and 2) this message is to be proclaimed to all peoples everywhere (Luke 24:47) in every age. (Matt. 28:20) Thus, the opening paragraphs of the Tokyo Declaration focus on mankind’s spiritual need along with a divinely given message and mandate.

Our Methodology

But Jesus did not impart this message without also giving a methodology to follow. Put another way, he did not leave us clueless as to how we are to proclaim that message. He articulated a goal coupled with a three-step methodology to be followed to reach that goal.

These key components are found in Jesus’ commission recorded in Matthew 28:19. Without getting too technical, there are four verbs in this passage and the main one, which is also an imperative, is “make disciples.” This is the centerpiece of Jesus’ command. Making disciples should also be the focus of our endeavors. The other three verbs give three essentials to follow, comprising the process of making disciples. These can be summarized with the words “penetration” (go) “consolidation” (baptize) and “transformation” (teaching).

The first step in making disciples is penetration—to “go” to where people are not Christ followers. This is the reachin gout aspect of making disciples. Placed first in the sentence shows it is the first step.  The verb can readily be translated “as you go,” indicating associated circumstances. This is a reminder that in every life experience, believers should be sensitive to the presence of others around them who are in need of the gospel. But most importantly, it shows our responsibility to take the gospel from where it is known and believed to where it is not known or believed.

The second step is consolidation. “Baptizing them is the bringing-in aspect of making disciples. Jesus did not mean for baptism to be used as a magical rite that automatically brings people into relationship with Him without first having a change of heart. Sadly, it has deteriorated into such in some church traditions. Rather, baptism is the culmination of the repent-believe-baptize experience of salvation.

This public symbol of initiation is very meaningful. It is a picture of beginning a new life in Christ and of ongoing allegiance to him, consolidating the believer into His church. The ordinance is a powerful outward expression of a changed life within and a new identity without, visible to others.

Third, there is transformation. Making a disciple does not stop with the initiation experience. There is an educational, “teaching them” process that follows, intended to spur new followers of Christ on to be learning and growing in their new faith. This is the changing-over aspect of making disciples. Some today would equate it with spiritual formation. Whatever the label, the important thing is that there is an ongoing growth experience. A new believer’s worldview must be changed; his lifestyle adjusted to increasingly conform to the image of Christ and his ethical conduct increasingly marked by integrity. When transformation is apparent in these areas, that believer, in turn, is in a position to teach others also and thus duplicate the process. 

Teaching has a desired outcome—obedience. New believers are taught with the goal “to obey,” becoming increasingly obedient to all Christ’s commands. Among the many things Jesus commanded, they are to live out the great commandment (Matt. 22:37-40), show great compassion (Matt. 9:36) and engage in the Great Commission. (Matt. 28:18-20) It takes growth experiences in community with other believers for these outcomes to be best realized.

Finishing the Task

Since the day of Pentecost, devoted followers of Christ have been avidly taking the message of the gospel across continents, countries and cultures. Yet after 2000 years, the quest to fulfill Christ’s commission remains uncompleted even though no greater effort in the history of humankind compares in scope and expenditure to this undertaking. Literally hundreds of thousands of messengers have gone forth, with billions of dollars expended and innumerable prayers offered on its behalf. Over the centuries thousands of vibrant regional sending centers have emerged and then disappeared as zeal for missions waxed and waned. Through it all, the propagation of the gospel continues unbroken and unabated.  However, the task remains unfinished.                        

The Tokyo Declaration fixes our eyes on finishing the task. Rather than being ambivalent, the document makes our current missional posture clear. It states the following: Although none dare predict when the task of making disciples will be brought to completion, we leave Tokyo cognizant of two realities:

  1. We are closer now to finishing the task than in any time in history.
  2. God has entrusted this generation with more opportunities and resources to complete the task than any previous one. We have more mission-minded churches, more sending structures and bases, more missionaries, more material resources, more funding, more and better technology, more information and data, a deeper understanding of the task, and a clearer focus of our responsibility than previous generations. God will require much of our generation.

Yet at this moment, 3.1 billion people,  40% of the world’s population, remain unreached. By “unreached” we use a recently refined definition by David Platt: “Unreached peoples and places are those among whom Christ is largely unknown and the Church is relatively insufficient to make Christ known in its broader population without outside help.” ( rethinking-unreached-peoples)

The Declaration calls on all believers, everywhere, to band together in concerted efforts to make disciples of peoples in all unreached/minimally reached/superficially reached/ partially reached people groups and areas of the world.

Going Forward Together

The Declaration recognizes that finishing the task will demand effective cooperative efforts by the entire global Christian community. In this regard, the final paragraph of the Tokyo Declaration remains significant. It recognizes the need for cooperative efforts to finish the task.

Here is how the Declaration concludes: 

Finally, we recognize that finishing the task will demand effective cooperative efforts of the entire global body of believers. To facilitate cooperation and on-going coordination between mission structures worldwide, we agree to the necessity of a global network of mission structures. With this in mind, we leave Tokyo pledging cooperation with one another, and all others of like faith, with the singular goal of “making disciples of every people in our generation.”

On the final day of the Tokyo Consultation, representatives from thirty networks and mission agencies from around the globe signed the Declaration. In so doing, they pledged commitment to cooperative efforts until the task is complete.

It is the hope of the Global Great Commission Network that many more will join in and sign the document. Each person reading this article is invited to do so. If you have yet to put your signature to it, we encourage you to do so now. The document is easily accessed by going to: https:// .

The Tokyo Declaration was not intended to be showcased and then shelved and forgotten. It remains a living document.  It is the basis for going forward together in cooperative efforts to “make disciples of every people in our generation.”



This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

The State of the Unfinished Task: A 2020 Update

The State of the Unfinished Task: A 2020 Update

In 2010, I spoke at the Global Mission Consultation in Tokyo. I presented initial thoughts on the “State of the Unfinished Task.” Ten years after the Global Consultation, it is appropriate to revisit our ideas and ask how we are doing, in the Global Church, with making disciples in every people group as well as presenting the Good News of the gospel to every person. The commands of Jesus to His disciples and to us that we call the Great Commission are the basis for this inquiry.

 The Scriptural Foundations for the Great Commission:

  1. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus defines the depth of the Great Commission in terms of making disciples of all nations.
  2. In Mark 16:15, He emphasizes the breadth and quantity of the sowing. “…Go into the entire world and preach the good news to all creation.”
  3. Luke 24:46-47 says that as surely as Christ rose from the dead, so will repentance be preached to all the nations. That’s the surety of the Great Commission.
  4. In John 20:21, we see Jesus as the model of the Great Commission. “…As the Father has sent me, I am  sending you.” Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. So should we.
  5. Acts 1:8 speaks of the extent of the Great Commission that begins in Jerusalem and stretches to the ends of the earth. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
  6. How do we do all this? In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus says in His Great Commandment that it’s by loving God with all of our heart and our neighbor as ourselves.

Reviewing the 10 global evangelization priorities I proposed a decade ago, in what ways are we not being obedient to the Great Commission? What part of His commands are we neglecting?

First, let me state my assumptions.

  1. First, the focus of these priorities is toward seeing a disciple-making breakthrough in every people group of the world. Evangelism is not enough. “Teaching others to observe all that Jesus has commanded” must be a part of the ongoing process.
  2. Second, these priorities concentrate on where the Church is NOT. They don’t try to address every mission that the Church is called to do. The purpose of addressing these priorities is to accelerate the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel where it has not yet been proclaimed.
  3. Third, this article assumes that every part of the world is called to go to every part of the world. No country is exempt from sending or receiving.
  4. Fourth, we have not lived our faith as we should. Our message is hollow if our lives do not back up the words we speak.
  5. Finally, we haven’t loved one another and worked together enough. If we know what the evangelization priorities are for the global Church, we can “stimulate one another to love and good deeds”—and do what hasn’t been done thus far.

In 2020, I believe these elements are still appropriate. The Global Church did better in some than others. But a tremendous response and church growth occurred wherever we worked together. Let’s take a look at the progress and continuing challenges in some of these elements.

Element #1 - Scripture Translation in Every Language

The Progress:

“Faith comes by hearing the word of God,” so translating the Scriptures continues to be the number one priority. Making disciples is extremely difficult without a biblical foundation.

During the last three years, leaders of the biggest translation and Scripture distribution organizations met together monthly. They delivered a comprehensive plan and a common framework for translation. They developed a joint fundraising approach. They held ongoing conversations on priorities, and they set up a constant communication plan to keep users and partners aware of progress and hurdles.

Working together, they believe they can begin Scripture translation in every language that needs it in five–10 years.


The Challenges:

There are still 3,969 languages that have no Scripture and no current work in progress. As many as 2,000 of these have no alphabet and need Scriptures in an oral format. On the encouraging side, it is exciting to realize that the people who will begin the translation of the last language are probably alive right now.

The Deaf comprise a portion of the groups without Scripture. In the last several years, interest grew to reach more Deaf communities with the gospel. Of the 400 known sign languages worldwide, none has a complete Bible translation. The American Sign Language Bible will be the first, celebrating its completion in October 2020. More Deaf church planters and translators are needed to translate the Bible into the world’s sign  languages.

Element #2:  Sending Workers to Every Unengaged, Unreached People Group

 The Progress:

In 2005, there were over 3,500 people groups that had no Bible, no known believers, and no Body of Christ. We call them Unengaged, Unreached People Groups. The combined population of these groups was over 700 million people. By 2010, 386 of these groups had been engaged with full-time workers, but staggering growth occurred between 2010 and 2020.


In addition to molizing workers, the 24:14 Coalition now reports 1,053 Kingdom Movements. These movements are characterized by at least four generations of church-planting and involve over 74 million believers. As never before, the gospel is going to places and to peoples in the most remote corners of the world.

In 2010 there were over 3,500 people groups with no workers. The total population of these groups was 350 million. Today there are fewer than 250 people groups that do not yet have a missionary.

The Challenges:

New people groups are being discovered and we need to recruit workers to reach out to them. Jesus cared about one lost sheep, one lost coin and one lost son. In addition, 70 million Deaf people have been neglected for too long. More workers are needed to share the gospel with more than 300 Deaf groups worldwide.

Element #3:  Increase Evangelism among Muslims, Hindu and Buddhists

The Progress:

The gospel proclamation continues to increase as new methodologies are put into practice. Here are a few examples of organizations that have seen dramatic numeric increases in people hearing the gospel during the last decade:

  1. The JESUS Film Project now has 1,808 different language translations available and the film touches more than 150 million people each year.
  2. Global Media Outreach reports that 1.8 billion people read the gospel on one of its 102 websites. In just one month in 2019, 4.3 million people from Muslim countries read God’s Word and 732,000 indicated a decision to follow Christ. The YouVersion Bible app helps with follow-up. It has now been downloaded by 400 million people, mostly between 2010-2020.
  3. Every Home for Christ has reached over 100 million homes each year since 2015.


The Challenges:

The Global Church continues to develop new ways of presenting the gospel. One of the great needs globally is for both evangelistic and discipleship materials to be translated into more languages. We also must be intentional to share the gospel where no one else is working. Otherwise, we will keep going to the easy places and another generation will be lost to the kingdom.

Element #4:  Planting Churches Everywhere

The Progress:

The Global Alliance for Church Planting, along with the 24:14 Coalition, is reporting 2.5 million churches planted in just the last eight years. Churches start everyday by people who simply want to pray together.

In a Muslim area in India, I met a man who planted 22,000 churches among Muslim background believers. I asked him how he started so many. He said, “We just look for a man who will inform all his family that he is a believer in Jesus, and also has a good reputation in the community. Then we go and hold church in his house.”

When I asked him what they did in their church service, he said, “We read the Bible, we ask the Holy Spirit to tell us what it means, and then we do what it says.”

The Challenges:

Gathering information on where churches are located is essential to determine where more evangelism and church-planting is strategic. The fear of this data becoming a security risk keeps some major churches and organizations from participating. A solution to this dilemma is needed.

We also desire more resource producers to work on simple tools for house church leaders that can be delivered by cell phone and are oral in design.

Additionally, work is required to reach oral learners and to ensure that foundational truths are present in every ministry. We pray for the day when there are:

  • Zero languages without the Scriptures
  • Zero people groups without disciple-makers
  • Zero people who have not heard the gospel
  • Zero villages or neighborhoods without a church 

May we all look forward to our lives counting toward Zero.

This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

“Beyond Christianity” 10 Years Later

“Beyond Christianity” 10	Years Later

My plenary messages at Tokyo 2010 addressed one of Ralph Winter’s classic 12 “frontiers” of mission, one that he referred to as “Beyond Christianity.” This frontier comprised movements towards Jesus taking place outside the borders of widely recognized, authentic, biblical Christianity. Winter’s examples included African independent (or indigenous) churches, Jesu Bhakta (Jesus devotees in India), and later, followers of Isa among Muslim peoples.

By 2010, these phenomena had been observed for some time but remained off the radar for many mission leaders. However, since then, awareness, controversy, books, articles and conferences have increased. And, the number of such movements has grown (as have the movements themselves in many cases).

When Winter first discussed these phenomena, the term “insider movement” was new, and tools such as the C-Scale were emerging. My 2010 paper landed in a period when insider movement controversies sparked.

My paper focused on three primary issues: Bible, church, and handling controversy. Those three themes still outline this topic, today. However, now I will take these themes in reverse order.

Handling Controversy

In my 2010 paper, I mentioned the painful conflicts surrounding insider movements. I suggested that those on different sides should meet, pray together, hear one another’s voice and see one another’s faces.

Completely apart from my paper, others brought people together for that purpose. In 2011, the first “Bridging the Divide” consultation was held at Houghton College, New York.

BtD’s purposes include encouraging fruitful discussion of contentious Muslim outreach issues in a relationally safe forum which fosters honest conversation. This enables participants to wrestle with strong differences in convictions and concerns, while diminishing misunderstandings, attacks and false reports. The BtD Network’s ongoing consultations since 2011 reveal a wide spectrum of ideas, attitudes and practices. While a divide between individuals and groups holding to these diverse positions remains, the emergence of BtD is a positive development which far exceeded my vision in 2010!

The Church

Ten years ago, I focused primarily on the point that believers in Jesus in movements outside of mainstream “Christianity” are brothers and sisters in Christ and part of His Body. This raises questions about the nature of the Church, the kingdom, the relationship of the two and more.

A full missiological treatment of ecclesiology still needs to be developed. More written and ethnographic material exists for such work, but the research and reflection needed is still in our future.

For some this will center around gaining a better understanding of biblical and historical material related to church/ecclesia. This answers the question: “If we want to plant churches, how do we know when we have one?” A fascinating moment in the BtD conversations was when we realized that views of the church were hard to classify by our insider movements positions. People on different sides of the insider movement divide also differed among themselves about the nature of the church.

For others, the research priority will be on barriers for new believers created by current ways of “being and doing church.”

Questions about church continue to emerge, and I would recommend some take up the task of pressing into this further moving forward.

The Bible

At the Tokyo event I focused on the place of the Bible in movements and asserted that “the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to teach and correct the people of God.” I still believe that and have witnessed its truth. However, ten years later there have been two important and related conversations.

One focuses on the relative position of Scripture to that of the early pioneer as teacher. A simplistic comparison might be, how much should be left to more inductive approaches, versus more deductive (and directive) approaches when passing on the inheritance of biblical truth. I value inductive approaches: trusting the Spirit to use whole books and large sections of scripture to shape the worldview and character of believers over time, forming the doctrinal, moral and spiritual fabric of movements and movement leaders. Others have emphasized the importance, if not mandate, for teachers to select and emphasize certain truths in Scripture rather than assuming people can discover those.


One of my main realizations is that both are important. In many cases, those of us who advocate for the priority of one over the other approach do so based on our own experiences.

The second development has been the crucial, and frequently vitriolic, controversies surrounding Bible translation, especially in the Muslim world. I do not have space to adequately review this, but I will say that the issues run deeper than just translation process or specific decisions about how to translate key terms in certain contexts. There are related themes about the nature of the biblical revelation and the need for a biblical theology of translation itself. The latter might be rooted in the discovery of what the Bible might have to say about how to translate itself.

Again, as with church, there is a lot of research to be done and potential for new insights as we do so.


A decade ago, I suggested three core values to understand and evaluate the health of movements Ralph Winter referred to when he spoke of “Beyond Christianity” as a frontier.

In re-reading those now, they still ring true to me:

  1. The Bible is God’s Word and is both supreme in its authority and sufficient in its application for every dimension of discipleship, teaching, training, and devotion in any movement.
  2. The kingdom of God spreads in and through social networks. It is like yeast in the dough.  As such, we can and should expect that, in many situations, men and women and families and friends will come into the kingdom together, as “pre-existing webs of relationship.”
  3. Men and women enter the kingdom directly, on the basis of what the King has done for them and through faith in Him without passing through Christianity. There are movements around the world taking place “beyond Christianity.” But such movements are inside the kingdom and under the leadership of the King.

If I were to edit anything above, it would be here, “… on the basis of what the King has done for them and through faith in Him, without necessarily passing through Christianity…” and here, “…such movements are inside the kingdom, in the Body of Christ, and under the leadership of the King.”

I noted areas where the future may call for and benefit from further research, thinking, and biblical digging. And I recounted developments in positive ways we as believers might engage more fruitfully and faithfully around controversies. I pray that such ongoing work and engagement grows and continues. I also pray for the continued growth of movements to Jesus of every type, whether clearly within, or clearly beyond Christianity as we know it.

This is an article from the May June 2020 issue: Tokyo 2010 Why it Still Matters

Business for Movements

Business for Movements

“We started to teach four men about business,” explained a Malawian apostolic worker. “One of them was Andres (pseudonym), a seeker. We shared the section in the training about our strengths and weaknesses. The next day they shared what they have learned and [Andres] shared that he was missing something. He doesn’t have a purpose, and he wants to know more. We shared about salvation, how to repent and meet Jesus. He wanted to learn more about salvation. He wanted to repent! We prayed for him and talked about baptism with him.”   See Andres’ case study.

The next decade belongs to Business for Movements (B4M) because the peoples who most urgently need a gospel breakthrough and church movements are in places with the least resources, infrastructure and access. B4M goes where the Church is not. It pioneers Christward movements among Frontier People Groups (FPGs) with no gospel or church-planting breakthroughs.

The Movement Model

B4M is a movement. Numerous books, case studies and articles record strategies and methodologies related to Christian, church-planting, disciple-making, and prayer movements. We often classify them as miraculous or supernatural, but the Bible is clear that movements are an expected outcome of the work of the Church. 

If we look at movement models in the book of Acts, we find that when faithful and diligent believers respond in obedience to the direction of the Holy Spirit, movements result.  Biblical movements are not compartmentalized. Instead, these movements represent a seamless convergence of abundant church-planting, prolific disciple-making, fervent prayer and thriving businesses among apostolic workers.

If appropriate sustainability mechanisms are not in place, rapidly multiplying Church Planting Movements may outpace financial resources. Apostolic leaders may be left without means to feed their families or to travel to support and grow the movement. This may halt or significantly delay church-planting movements. The strength of these movements can, therefore, be measured by their capacity to be sustainable from within.

Pioneer Business Planting

One of the key B4M initiatives is Pioneer Business Planting (PBP). It is patterned after movement dynamics and it fuels and sustains church-planting movements where no churches exist. PBP also accelerates access to the least reached people and unreached places of the world. Business creates sustainability for apostolic workers while simultaneously giving unreached people and places access to the gospel.

PBP incorporates several core movement characteristics including:

  • using orality to train
  • focusing on principles of simplicity and multiplication
  • empowering and developing local leaders
  • working with local people to address local needs using local resources first
  • cultivating learning attitudes
  • honoring local cultures
  • providing ongoing coaching and discipleship
  • incorporating biblical principles of stewardship, ethics, and business


Progress in Asia and Africa

In Asia and Africa, we observed significant movements of FPGs coming to Christ through business conducted in strategic locations by apostolic workers. This powerfully influences regions that would otherwise remain isolated from the message of the gospel.

For example, since 2017, 1,000 apostolic workers in Malawi participated in PBP with 400 businesses that started alongside 100 house church plants (some of which were already there before PBP). In Indonesia, 500 apostolic workers attended PBP training and have operated businesses among FPGs for more than five years bearing fruit in very difficult places. 

Over the past 10 years, PBP expanded to 45 countries in Asia and Africa. Over 2,500 businesses operated by both indigenous and close-culture church planters were launched.

Imagine a world with thousands of Stevens and Andreses reaching and discipling unreached peoples! We anticipate that the next decade will be a decade of opportunity for PBP movements alongside Church Planting Movements. Based on what we experienced in the past decade, we believe that business movements will play a significant role in extending the reach of the gospel. This will happen as a result of prayer, influencers, shifts in global partnerships, growth in national/indigenous leadership, global workforce funding and even persecution.

Ordinary people that love Jesus strategically and intentionally planting ordinary businesses will take the gospel to the remaining hard places.  It will demand a posture of humility. It will require equipping, engaging, and empowering global south apostolic workers in B4M methodology. It will result in extending the reach of the gospel in Frontier People Groups while making an economic, social and spiritual impact in the community. We can make this happen by facilitating conversation, being active learners, listening, storytelling and leading hands on experiential learning through activity-based modeling.


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

John Wesley’s Plan for Multiplication

John Wesley’s Plan for Multiplication

Growth phase—John Wesley and the Methodist movement

No one would have predicted that John Wesley would be among the great founders and builders of a multiplying movement. Wesley, the founder of Methodism, went to America hoping to convert the Indians. But he returned to England despairing of his own salvation, wondering, “Who shall convert me?”

On May 24, 1738, Wesley reluctantly attended a study on the book of Romans. As the leader was describing the change that God works in the heart through faith in Christ, Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed.” He wrote in his journal, “I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Transformed by God’s grace, Wesley traveled Britain with a vision for the conversion and discipling of a nation and the renewal of a fallen church. His passion drew others to the cause. Wesley initiated the Birth of the Methodist movement and led it into Growth. Wesley showed how a movement leader in Growth turns vision into action while maintaining flexibility and control. He released authority and responsibility, and empowered the movement to embody the Methodist cause.

In March of 1739, Wesley knew it was time to act. He headed to Bristol, invited by the evangelist George Whitefield. Wesley was shocked by what he saw; he believed Whitefield was acting like an extremist and heretic by preaching in the open air to vast crowds. On a Sunday afternoon, Wesley watched Whitefield preach to 30,000 people. The fruit of Whitefield’s methods changed his mind. The next day Wesley preached outdoors. By September, he was preaching to crowds of 12,000–20,000.

The common people were less likely to attend church, so Wesley went to them, and he was gladly received. He preached to thousands, standing on a tombstone with the church behind him serving as a sounding board. He preached in market squares. He preached in public parks in the evenings and on the weekends. He preached at 5:00 a.m. before the workday began. Wesley adopted methods from other movements and shaped them to his purpose. Whitefield showed him how to reach the masses through open air preaching. The Moravians taught him how to gather them into disciple-making groups.

In the 1740s he explored and adapted Strategies and Methods that served a growing movement. These included field preaching, classes, bands, societies, itinerants, circuits, annual conferences, and publications. He borrowed from other movements, constantly implementing, adapting and evaluating. He combined the elements into a consistent whole that became Methodism.

Wesley’s flexibility with Strategy and Methods was tempered by his dependence on the authority of the Word, the leading of the Holy Spirit and his clarity of Mission. He loved church tradition, but for Wesley, the Bible was “the only standard of truth, and the only model of pure religion.” He said, “I allow no other rule, whether of faith or practice, than the Holy Scriptures.” This view of Scripture left him free to experiment by dispensing with church traditions that no longer served a purpose. He adapted his methods under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as he pursued the Mission of discipling a nation. Wesley experimented, tested, and refined simple but effective methods and structures, so the movement could expand but still remain focused once it moved beyond his direct control. His Spirit-inspired Adaptive Methods enabled him to mobilize leaders and workers in an expanding movement and still keep it on track.

Wesley was now preaching to crowds of thousands. But his mission didn’t stop with people who made decisions—he wanted disciples. He could have become the pastor-teacher of a great church, but he wanted to reach a nation. He needed a simple method for discipleship in a rapidly expanding movement. So wherever the gospel was met with faith, he set up Methodist societies. He formed the first of these in London in an unused cannon foundry.

Methodist societies were the functional equivalent of a local church. Society meetings included worship, Bible reading, a message, and prayer. The use of the term “society” enabled Wesley to avoid conflict with the state-sponsored Anglican church as he reinvented the nature of church. After Wesley’s death, Methodist societies became Methodist churches. Wesley divided each society into classes, which were groups of twelve with an appointed leader. The condition for membership was a desire to flee from the wrath and to come and show the reality of conversion through conduct. As class leaders visited members they discovered behavior incompatible with true conversion, such as domestic disputes and drunkenness. In response, Wesley turned the class meeting into a pastoral and disciplinary structure, which became the building block of a disciple making movement.

The purpose of field preaching was to gather those seeking salvation into the societies and classes. Most conversions took place in the classes, and those converted then joined bands, which were even smaller discipleship groups. The focus of the class was conversion and discipline. The focus of the band was the confession of sin and pastoral care. Through the system of societies, classes and bands, Methodists came together to encourage each other, confess their sins, pray for each other and hold one another accountable. The class leaders were the backbone of the movement. Wesley examined them to determine “their grace, their gifts and their manner of meeting their several classes.” Discipline and accountability were Wesley’s effective methods for dealing with an expanding movement.

Overwhelmed with opportunities, Wesley  experimented with evangelistic preaching that wasn’t followed up with new societies, classes and bands. It was a failure. Wesley observed, “Almost all the seed has fallen by the wayside; there is scarce any fruit of it remaining.” The awakened souls could not “watch over one another in love,” and believers could not “build up one another and bear one another’s burdens.”

Wesley could not disciple a nation alone. He multiplied himself through a system of circuits and circuit riders.

London and Bristol—the cities under Wesley’s direct influence—were the movement’s strongholds. Methodism was also springing up across the nation because of local revivals. It further expanded by adopting local groups and leaders from outside the movement. Inevitably, this added both momentum and new challenges, as the absorbed groups came with many theologies and practices—Calvinists, Moravians, Baptists, and Quakers. How would Wesley unite pockets of revival into a cohesive movement? Leadership was key. He and his brother Charles were constantly on the road both advancing and unifying the movement. In an expanding movement the founder must not depend on positional authority but on the authority of a life devoted to the Word, the Spirit, and the Mission.

Wesley learned from Jesus’ example as a founder. When Jesus left this earth, His disciples had the memory of His life and teaching. But they had more than a memory: Jesus led them into the same relationship he had with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

He told them it was for their good that He went away (John 16:7). His physical absence enhanced their leadership. Through the Word and the Spirit, His presence went with every disciple as they pursued the mission He gave them. Wesley brought others into the same experience of saving grace he encountered. He mobilized them into an army of committed followers who embraced the Methodist cause. They knew who they were, and they knew what to do. The movement had vitality and form, enabling it to surpass the direct control of its founder.


Put the idea to work: Ground the founding vision in effective action that produces the results for which the movement exists.

  • Balance flexibility and control: Utilize effective methods and functional structures that enable the spread of the movement.
  • Release authority and responsibility: Mobilize workers and leaders to consolidate and expand the movement.
  • Let go: Avoid the Founder’s Trap by empowering the movement to embody the cause.
  • Pursue Prime: Put in place the people and systems to achieve the results for which the movement exists.


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

3 Ways We Stifle S.W.A.P.

3 Ways We Stifle S.W.A.P.

Steve Smith’s book, Spirit Walk, moves many of his readers, including me. In his book, Steve presents a pathway to walk in the Spirit via the acronym S.W.A.P. As a quick reminder, S.W.A.P. stands for:

  • Surrender to His will and His every word
  • Wait on God in prayer
  • Avoid sin, and let God root out all unrighteousness
  • Pursue the promptings of the Spirit. As I read about the absolute necessity of surrender and waiting on God in prayer to aid us in walking in the Spirit, this question came to mind: How often in serving cross-culturally do we unintentionally stifle people’s ability to surrender completely, wait on God, and obey His promptings?

How could we possibly stifle our host cultural group’s S.W.A.P.? I desire to touch on three critical ways we stifle

S.W.A.P. among the nations we serve.

We stifle people’s felt need to practice S.W.A.P. by creating an environment in which it becomes their top priority to seek out foreign sponsors and then accommodate those sponsors. In some cases, what their sponsors want and what keeps the flow of money coming becomes their pathway to make decisions. In other words, they surrender to the outsiders’ agendas and accommodate to their prepackaged foreign forms, rather than seeking and waiting on God’s agenda and creativity for His will and word for them.   

We exercise our control by using our Western business models. In the name of partnership, as soon as we begin to fund local initiatives and fund salaries, we are perceived as the person who has the power and we naturally exercise control in the relationship to varying degrees. Money flowing one direction changes the power balance in the relationship.  We have to track return on investment and require reports for our home base. We must withdraw funding when we see missteps or lack of best accounting practices according to our Western systems. These types of influences give us a level of authority and control that disturbs a healthy practice of S.W.A.P.  

We artificially move the movement. Steve Smith, a dedicated practitioner of Disciple Making Movements, reveals to us the most critical way to experience fruit, growth, multiplication and movement — through walking in the Spirit via the process of S.W.A.P. The apostle Paul surely was someone who practiced S.W.A.P. faithfully; yet he faced persecution, opposition, and was ejected from many places. His growth came with the rhythms of the Spirit and realities of the environments he served. No one came along and said, “You would be way more successful if you let us inform you of better ways and even pave the way with money and resources.” The movement was the Spirit’s movement. It was at His pace and His way. But wealthy foreign Christians like to speed things up with their financial and expert intervention. Before you know it, we artificially infuse the local movement instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to drive it. If the Holy Spirit is generating the movement through the local believer’s S.W.A.P., do we need to artificially speed things along as we see fit?    

Raising local resources includes raising local disciples’ vision and ability to walk in the Spirit via S.W.A.P. In this case, they lack nothing. The Spirit will provide, lead, and move based on their practice of:

* Surrendering to His will and His every word

* Waiting on God in prayer

* Avoiding sin and letting God root out all unrighteousness 

* Pursuing the promptings of the Spirit.

Do you want to partner with existing and emerging churches around the world? Do you want to engage with unreached people groups? Focus on how to foster S.W.A.P.—and how to avoid stifling it.

Cheering people on, praying alongside them in the background, asking good open-ended questions (not hiding our solutions in the questions), leaving our Western systems and traditions at home and allowing necessity to be the mother of Holy Spirit-led invention are just a few ways to encourage local, indigenous S.W.A.P.

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

Toward the Edges

Tokyo 2020, and the History of Movements

Toward the Edges

In this edition of Mission Frontiers we include a look at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 event, and we are looking at the history of movements. I want to say a few words about each here.

Tokyo 2020

In 2010, a number of events celebrated and reflected upon the 1910 Edinburgh conference. The one most focused on what we refer to as frontier missiology was held in Tokyo that year. In a next edition we will be publishing an entire group of articles looking at Tokyo 2010. The articles will be written by those who presented papers in 2010, and each will be looking at how we see things ten years later. Stay tuned!

In this edition of MF David Bogosian and Obed Alvarez look ahead at the soon coming Tokyo 2020 event, which is also seeking to build from what began in 2010. Obed and David describe the call for a new reformation, and use the event of Luther’s posting of “theses” as an inspiration for the global church to gather and do the same, with representative leadership describing what needs to change.

This is a commendable enterprise, and we should all pray for its success. At the same time, I sense a gap. Since 2010 one of the dramatic realities in the progress of mission has been the phenomenal growth of movements to Jesus that are largely outside the realms of the churches being represented in Tokyo.

By saying this I am not only referring to socalled insider movements, but also to the growth of all sorts of movements that have expanded the Body of Christ but not generally within (or known to) better known church structures. Which leaves me wondering what sort of theses the leaders of these movements might post on a 2020 Wittenberg door?

Speaking of movements, that is the main topic of this edition of MF

Drinking from the Headwaters: the History of Movements

As an MF reader you are aware of how central the topic of movements has become for us in Frontier Ventures, and in a growing number of organizations engaged in the frontiers of mission. As I have noted before, we are in the midst of a “movement movement.”

Typically, our articles have focused on description and reporting. This edition focuses more on the historical perspective, and one thing that emerges is that movements are not a new fad or a recent trend. So, one hope in compiling the articles you have here is to make the point that, while there has been an increase in our awareness of movements, they are not new.

Another point is to suggest that we are in a season in which we are witnessing what very likely is an increase in the number of movements as compared to at least the general flow of mission history. I want to exercise some caution here, as there is much we simply do not know about the past, and our current language and definitions related to movements provide us with lenses for looking at history, but these are lenses our predecessors were not using, and thus there may well have been movements we do not know about at all, or the dynamics of which were not described in ways we recognize easily.

So, this edition seeks to paint at least a partial picture. Movements are not new. And indeed, one way to understand and read the New Testament is as a combination of case studies of the earliest movements to Jesus: the headwaters for all subsequent movements.

The New Testament is certainly more than that, of course. It is a source of doctrine and spiritual life and principles and ecclesiology and much, much more. But it is also, in addition, the collection of the true narratives (Gospels and Acts) and the behind the scenes, inner workings (epistles) of the earliest Jesus movements.

Reading the New Testament that way, as the first history of movements, what are a few things we can glean?

Authentic Movements are a Work of the Spirit

The combined narrative we have been given in Luke and Acts is filled with references to the work of the Spirit. Before the birth of Jesus, in the birth of Jesus, throughout the life and ministry of Jesus, and then beyond the ascension of Jesus: the Holy Spirit was the prime mover in the movements we see in the text. This statement could be misunderstood in at least two ways:

First, my words might be taken to mean there is nothing we need to do, or nothing we need to learn about practical realities or even practices that might foster movements, or might hinder them. I am not saying that at all. There is a crucial place for learning from other movements, whether those are contemporary to us, or historical, or (even more important in my view), biblical. We can and should learn and glean and apply what we learn and glean.

Second, my words might be taken to mean that I am saying everything that seems to be growing like a movement is a result of the Spirit at work. I don’t think anything is ever quite that neat and clean! The New Testament record of movements is already an antidote to the idea that anything that seems like a movement must be free of warts and foibles, as well as sin and brokenness. We see in Luke and Acts and even more clearly in the letters that the same movements I have said are empowered by the Spirit are also riddled with human sin, error, and foolishness.

A look at 1 Corinthians provides perhaps the most dramatic picture of the paradox I am pointing to, namely that movements are a work of the Spirit and yet also can be rife with folly and sin, and false teaching.

Readers will almost certainly be in mind of the profound level of brokenness in Corinth and of Paul’s passionate attempts to correct and heal. But, even so, even in this rubble of sin and error we know as the “church in Corinth,” Paul opens his letter with the apparently contradictory affirmations of the Corinthians as sanctified, enriched in every way, and lacking in nothing. Paul expresses his confidence that the Lord will continue to confirm them until the day of Jesus.

Movements are messy, and when we look under the hood they often need a lot of repair. Movements have certain dynamics and principles about which we can learn. But movements to Jesus are at the same time works of the Spirit of God. While we can and should learn how to better serve Him in the birthing, growth and ongoing development of movements, they are His work.

Authentic Movements Share Certain Common “DNA” Markers

Much of the discussion of movements has, understandably, focused on the quantitative elements: numbers of disciples or fellowships, generations of multiplication, timeframes within which things have taken place, etc. The Gospels and Acts also at times provide “numbers”: how many ate from the loaves and fish, how many disciples were sent in Luke 9, and then in Luke 10, how many were present in Jerusalem in Acts 2, or later in Acts as the movement grew, and even later when Paul returns and hears of “myriads” who follow Jesus among Torah loving Jews. But no one who is advocating or reporting about movements suggests that just those numerical markers provide the ultimate signs of health.

In our look at the history of movements, if we return to the New Testament as the headwaters, we see that far more attention is given to qualitative measures than to quantitative measures when it comes to describing what was happening, or correcting and encouraging and teaching the leaders and people involved.

I affirm the validity of looking at contemporary or historical or biblical examples of movements in order to draw principles and practices for our own ministry approaches and philosophies. The vast preponderance of biblical material addresses qualitative issues and there is very sparse material that could be defined as pragmatic “how to’s” for starting and growing movements.1

I am not sure if he was the first to note this but an early observer of the New Testament movements was Roland Allen, and he noted the nearly complete absence of anything like exhortations to grow, evangelize, make disciples, plant churches, etc. in Paul’s epistles, much less anything like instructions for how to go about those things. Instead, what the epistles are full of are exhortations, teaching, examples, prayers, and deep truths that are intended to describe and continue to shape the fundamental identity and community life of the recipients. The epistles provide primarily qualitative “DNA” markers and pathways.

I am not implying that Paul did not have practices and principles in his mind or work. And certainly we can discover hints of those, as for example in Acts 14 near the end when Luke describes some of the functions of Paul’s work: evangelizing a city, making disciples, strengthening disciples, and appointing elders. Paul certainly developed ways of doing those things, and those who accompanied him on his journeys would have seen those and learned from those. But, although we can glean such practical wisdom from Acts and Paul’s letters it seems to me that describing detailed prescriptions for our actions does not appear to have been the primary interest of the Holy Spirit when inspiring what we have been given in the New Testament.


My prayer is that this edition of MF will bless you, and that it will find its way into the hands of women and men who will be able to glean practical wisdom from the history of movements. May you be able to apply it to your own contexts and ministries whether you serve in the frontiers or in the land and culture of your birth.

I also pray that as you learn from the rivers of movement history we have sought to assemble here, you will also be encouraged to keep following those rivers, like the intrepid explorers searching for headwaters of the Nile, back to the fountainhead of all movements, and there drink deeply from the scriptures which are able to build you up and equip you for every good work.

  1.  1 There are practical, pragmatic commands given in Jesus’ instructions to the 12 and the 70, and in Paul’s admonitions to Timothy or Titus. However, Jesus’ admonitions must be carefully applied as they were originally spoken for very specific contexts and purposes, and Paul’s primarily related to leaders and correction of errors, not the explicit growth or expansion of movements. This does not mean that important principles cannot be derived and applied: one popular example being to find a “person of peace.” This has been a fruitful principle, but there are also examples of movements beginning apart from this, and it is unlikely that it was originally given with the intent of being a universal commandment in its specific, original form.

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

Four Stages of a Movement

Four Stages of a Movement

I stood in front of the American congregation and urged them to send short-term teams to my Asian people group. “On a two-week trip, you can win a household or two to faith and begin a church with them.” They were tracking with me until the word “church.” At that 400 sets of eyes glassed over.

I was stymied to figure out what had created doubt. When I saw some of them looking at the building overhead, I realized the problem. They thought I was asking them to plant a large-building church with the programs, equipment and full-time staff.

I rephrased my admonition. “How many of you have started a small group in your home?” Dozens of hands went up. “I would like to invite you to start similar groups in Asia. We will help those become churches that meet in homes.” Looks of relief spread around the room. Many nodded. This was something they could attempt.

What I encountered that day is a common stumbling block when we transport believers from a Phase 4 movement and insert them into a Phase 1 situation. Throughout history, most movements have gone through four phases or stages (and sometimes back again through grass-roots movements). Failure to understand these can create unreal expectations that are inappropriate for a given stage of a movement.

Years ago mission practitioners Don Dent and Nik Ripken spoke of similar stages. Mark Stevens, a CPM trainer in Southeast Asia, has then summarized these as four phases of a movement. Neill Mims, another trainer in Southeast Asia, has crafted this into a simple drawing. The drawing I present here is a slight modification of the work these men have done.

This paradigm tool has proven so helpful that many CPM (church planting movement) trainers now draw a simple diagram on a poster depicting this at the beginning of a training. We leave this up on the wall throughout the training to avert misunderstandings. What follows is an oversimplification but simplifying it clarifies the progression and why tensions arise at times. This historical progression from the Unreached Phase to Institutional Phase can take years, decades or centuries.

This tool is not aimed at criticizing believers and churches in any of the phases. I am a product of a stage four movement. Rather the goal is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each stage and what we must navigate when we move from one to the other.

Stage One—Unreached Phase

In the beginning of a new mission work, the people group is unreached. Few believers or churches exist. Outsiders enter the context and lead people to faith. Persons of Peace are discovered and networks of relationships are opened up through those who accept Christ. It is not uncommon to find some who may multiply gospel acceptance 30 times, 60 times and 100 times in their circle of influence.

In this early stage of what might become a movement ofGod, usually all forms and methods are rather simple.  If they are not, then this mission work never becomes a movement.

• The number of Christians (represented by dots) is relatively small. The budding movement may be growing (represented by a line moving higher on the graph.) But most of the evangelism and church planting is being done by evangelists from outside the people group. Growth is still incremental.

• The few churches meet in informal places—homes, under trees or in other places already built (storefronts, offices, etc.). This is symbolized by a house. Again, most churches are being started by outsiders.

• An important step that must be taken is development of the concept of the priesthood of every believer (represented by “P”s). In this stage, though outsiders are initiating the evangelism and church planting, this budding work can become a movement if they instill in believers a strong concept of the priesthood of the believer. They must help believers not only to go directly to God but also to live out the priestly service of evangelizing and ministering to others. If they do not catch this concept, then the missionary work can remain in the unreached phase indefinitely— outside missionary experts doing all of the evangelism, discipleship, church planting and leading.

• Leadership development of local believers is very informal, usually happening in the churches or local context, just in time, mainly in the form of mentoring

• All of the forms are so simple at this stage, that with the right empowering and vision, the early stages may be fanned into a Church Planting Movement.

Stage Two—Movement Phase

At this stage, multiplication of disciples and churches is occurring primarily because indigenous believers are captivated by the vision to reach their own people group and beyond. The number of believers begins to increase dramatically because the concept of the priesthood of every believer takes off (the line begins to rise more rapidly).
As the Spirit empowers them through simple forms and methods, new communities are reached with the gospel.

Churches continue to meet in informal places such as homes, and multiplication is the norm for most churches as they live with these simple forms. Leadership development usually occurs in the context of churches. Locally connected leadership networks develop where leaders with more responsibility gain additional training in context.
Indigenous believers do not wait for outsiders to initiate evangelism, baptism, discipleship, church planting or leadership of churches. The movement grows because of their confidence that they are commissioned and empowered to do the work of ministry. Most believers and leaders do not see a great “clergy/laity” divide. A movement can remain in this stage for years or decades.

Stage Three—Formalizing (or Established) Phase

As the movement progresses, the number of believers continues to increase rapidly. A desire develops to standardize or formalize certain aspects of the movement (e.g. church formation, leadership development, etc.).  Leadership development existed in the earlier phases but it was done intentionally in context – essentially theological education by extension.

As the movement formalizes, some churches begin to meet in purpose-built structures while some continue to meet in homes. Brick and mortar (or bamboo and tin) buildings emerge. (This is represented by a building with a cross on top.) Some of these brick and mortar churches become much larger than the average church meeting in a home.

Leadership development becomes more formalized as well. Dedicated institutions (represented by a colonnaded structure) begin to emerge to train more leaders and to do it in a more systematic manner. Certificates and credentials begin to emerge in the process. Some very gifted leaders begin to stand out amidst the leaders (represented by stars on the drawing). They are highly gifted evangelists, preachers, teachers and administrators. Lay pastoral leadership becomes less common and a professional leadership becomes more common.

The result is that normal disciples can be intimidated from doing the work of the ministry. They do not have the abilities or specialized training/credentials of the professional leaders. Therefore, the concept of the priesthood of the believer (in terms of “every member a minister”) wanes. A smaller percentage of disciples continues in ministering to others. No one intends for this to occur, and many pastors will do their best in stages three and four to build up their church members as ministers and leaders, but the “clergy/laity” divide becomes more profound.

Stage Four—Institutional Phase

As the movement becomes more formalized, it inevitably moves to an institutional phase. Overall the movement may grow for a while due to the sheer number of churches and believers bearing witness. However, it is not uncommon for the movement to plateau, unable to keep pace with the birth rate

At this stage, multitudes of believers exist. Churches are very common and accepted in society. The majority of churches meet in purpose-built structures and the requirements for what constitutes a church become more rigid. For a church to meet in a home is seen as odd and “not real church.” Some churches become larger and some mega-churches emerge, though in many denominations, the vast majority of churches still average under a hundred in attendance.

Extremely gifted leaders emerge (represented by even larger stars on the diagram). Virtually all leadership development is now done in institutions – seminaries or Bible schools - and credentials are expected. A majority of leaders serve in full- or part-time capacities. Lay leadership is less common, or at least less visible. The upshot is that the concept of priesthood of the believer wanes drastically. Believers bring their lost friends to church rather than lead them to faith themselves. Professional leaders do the work of ministry and find it difficult to motivate the average person in the pew to serve in lay ministry.

Institutions by the church become common (seminaries, publishing houses, hospitals, mission organizations, etc.) and often effect great impact through the manpower and budgets they wield.

Stage Four Workers in Stage One

This whole process can take years, decades or centuries to develop. The early church does not appear to have entered this final stage until the Fourth Century A.D. Most movements progress through these stages. The difficulty comes when we lack this historical perspective and try to make sense of movements at earlier stages.

What happens when a missionary leaves a stage four church and tries to do evangelism and church planting in stage one? Inadvertently he tries to plant stage four disciples and churches because that is all he knows. One missionary in Sub-Saharan Africa expressed revelation upon seeing this diagram. He realized that when his organization pioneered work in his tribal people group, they attempted to start stage four churches from the beginning (complete with brick and mortar). He discovered that on average it took 22 years to plant a stage four church in stage one.

As Neill Mims was teaching a group of Korean missionaries, this question sparked an intense counseling session. Though a result of a mighty movement, Korean church culture is now extremely institutional. This chart gave these missionaries some understanding as to why their home churches and pastors expected them to start large churches or other institutions very quickly or be considered failures.

Leadership development also becomes a challenge. Local partners that I mobilized to reach an unreached people group in Asia needed one year of training-doing-retraining-doing retraining before they understood basic reproducible patterns for evangelism, discipleship and church planting. After one year they finally were following a stage one and two pattern.

But when it came time to choose leaders, they naturally reverted to seeing through stage four eyes. They could not find any believers from the harvest to appoint as pastors. The reason was not the lack of biblical qualifications. The problem was that they were envisioning leaders from back home (stage four) – extremely gifted, exceptional teachers, highly mature spiritual life, administrative abilities, etc. It was not until they grasped the basics of Scripture and abandoned stage four expectations that they could develop local leaders appropriately at stage one. These indigenous leaders would continue to grow and mature as they were trained in the years to come.

Stage Two Workers in Stage Four

What happens with believers from stage one or two who visit leaders and churches in stage four? A not-uncommon consequence is death of the movement phase and immediately entering the formalizing and institutional phase.

Leaders from an emerging CPM left their mountain homes and descended into the plains where stage four churches and institution had existed for decades. When the leaders saw the marvelous buildings, institutions and gifted leaders, they longed to have the same thing. They returned to their mountain churches and immediately instituted stage four requirements  for what constituted a church and who could lead. This effectively killed the progress of their movement.

Stage Four Leaders Watching a Stage Two Movement

When our whole frame of reference is stage four, it is easy to criticize what we see in stage two. We can easily label the house churches as “not real churches.” Or, we can require that leaders meet certain credentialing requirements before they can perform the ordinances. Or, as we feel compassion for pastors that are bi-vocational, we may dedicate money to fund them full-time, thereby creating a benchmark that is no longer reproducible. In all, we can kill a movement when we implement extra-biblical requirements that are a yoke too heavy into these early stages.

It is easy to ridicule such movements because we have no frame of reference for them. Recently, as I spoke to 400 pastors, seminary professors and mission leaders about launching Church Planting Movements in the American context, I encountered many such questions. The idea of every believer being trained to make disciples and potentially start churches was a foreign concept.

I read them an account of the number of believers and churches multiplying almost ten-fold over the course of twenty years in the States. Many in the group began to ask where this movement was occurring. I shared that this occurred in the American frontier among Baptists from 1790-1810.

I read the following quote from Baptist historian Robert Baker:
Baptist ecclesiology and doctrine were particularly suited to the democratic atmosphere of the developing western frontier. The Baptist gospel was simple, minimizing complex theological formulations, and emphasizing a life-changing confrontation with Jesus Christ. Like Paul, most of the frontier Baptist preachers were tentmakers in the sense that they provided for their own livelihood. The distinction between “laity” and “clergy” existed only in the fact that the latter had fire in their bones to preach the gospel in response to a divine summons.

The Baptist preachers lived and worked exactly as did their flocks; their dwellings were little cabins with dirt floor and, instead of bedspreads, skin-covered polebunks: they cleared the ground, split rails, planted corn, and raised hogs on equal terms with their parishioners.

The fact that each Baptist church was completely independent appealed to frontier democracy and eliminated problems of ministerial appointment and ecclesiastical authority. It is no wonder, then, that the Baptists played a large part in the significant frontier movement and made great gains from their ministry among the people on the growing edge of American life.

I announced to the group, “This is our heritage! This is the way we lived just 200 years ago. Let us embrace our heritage and ask God for a renewal movement.” Heads began to nod in the audience.

History is filled with this general story occurring over and over, nation by nation. It is also filled with stories of plateaued denominations in which fresh grass roots movements emerged by going back to principles of stage two.

The challenge is to keep a movement at the movement stage as long as possible and to not let the formalizing impede the progress of the kingdom. But when it does begin to slow down, going back to simple biblical processes and methods of earlier stages can spark a new movement.
Why not today? Why not in your context? 

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

Tokyo 2020:  A Global Call for Reformation 2.0

Tokyo 2020:  A Global Call for Reformation 2.0

If Martin Luther were alive today what might he nail to the door of the Church? This is the topic which global mission leaders will ask when they gather in May of this year in Tokyo, Japan. Ten years after Ralph Winter gave a call for the Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation, the original organizers of this gathering are reconvening to ask a crucial question: In what areas do we need reformation today in order to see world evangelization in our generation?

Five hundred years after the Protestant Reformation and almost 2,000 years after Jesus gave the Great Commission, we still have a long way to go in fulfilling our global mandate. Two billion people remain without access to the gospel. Hundreds of thousands of communities are million evangelicals in the world, why are there still unreached people groups who have yet to receive their first missionary? Is there something inherently flawed in our discipleship, our ecclesiology and our leadership development that allows this status quo to persist unquestioned?

Tokyo 2020 is an open call to re-examine everything we without access to a church in thousands of unreached and frontier people groups. Over 3,000 languages still do not have the Scriptures in their language. In spite of these great needs, missionary sending from the United States and other Western nations is plateauing and even declining.

Why is that? What are the impediments that have kept this generation of believers from reaching every unevangelized person, place and people with the gospel? Although we live in the most gospel-rich era in human history, there are still vast areas of the world that remain without a witness. With an estimated 800 are doing both at home and abroad, both within the church and on the mission field. Leaders from every country are being asked to pray and seek the Lord. In what areas do we need to repent? In what areas are we doing well? Do those of us in the West have blind spots which the African church can see, but we cannot? Tokyo 2020 will be a summit to hear from God, but it will not end with the gathering itself. It is just the beginning of what will be a five-year global inquiry to hear what God is saying to his Church all over the world.

The genesis of this reformation survey began with the chairman of Tokyo 2010, Obed Alvarez, a mission leader from Peru. Following Tokyo 2010, Obed organized several international gatherings to mobilize and equip the Church to face the Muslim challenge. Obed was alarmed at the inroads Islam was making in his country and in Latin America. It seemed the Church was not prepared. He learned that Islam has bold and aggressive plans to evangelize his continent, as well as Africa and Europe.

The more he examined this, the more he realized the Church was asleep. At a time when the Church should be the most awake, with such incredible opportunity to reach the Muslim world, the opposite seemed to be happening.

Like Martin Luther, this issue revealed something deeper that was troubling. Luther’s original 95 Theses dealt with one major issue: papal indulgences. At the time it was more of an annoyance to Luther than anything else. He was still a faithful Catholic and an obedient priest. Yet this one issue struck a match to a reformation that has now impacted the entire world. Ultimately what Luther was contending for was the purity of the gospel, even though he may not have known the full weight of his inquiry at the time. In hindsight we can see that getting to this core issue changed everything. The gospel is the foundation for everything we do and everything we are. Recovering the gospel unleashed the power of the Church and the believer for global impact that has irrevocably altered the course of human history.

Are we in need of a new reformation today? It would seem God has been speaking to many leaders around the world about this very thing. When Obed gave the call in this last year to issue a new “95 Theses” for the global church, submissions began pouring in from every continent. It is evident God is speaking in many areas. Compelling themes are emerging. One area in particular should be of special concern to those of us in the West. There is growing unease, especially in the non-Western church, with what is happening to American Christianity. While we have been busy exporting our denominations, theological controversies and mega-church franchises to the nations, we have been losing an entire generation of young people to secularism, agnosticism and atheism. Could it be that after two hundred years of sending over 200,000 missionaries, it is now we in the West who are in need of some mentoring in disciple-making? Maybe we could learn a thing or two from the persecuted church, from our brothers and sisters in places like China and Iran.

No doubt, we all need to come to this table with humility. Like it or not, as Americans we represent the richest generation of Christians in history. We carry the most weight and have the strongest impact. Our “prosperity gospel” can now be found in every country of the world. We should not be surprised if the global church has something to say about it. We may not like it, we may even find it offensive, but we need to listen. If we have made the gospel subservient to our culture, it may take the global church to help us see it. That’s the beauty of global mission coming full circle. God still has his prophets, and we need to hear what he is saying through them.

Of course, this inquiry will not just be a critique of Western Christianity and its global impact. It’s about the whole church listening to one another. Like “iron sharpening iron”, Tokyo 2020 will be an opportunity for the global church to refine its message, purify its motives, and recover lost methods for world evangelization. It’s about Asians listening to Africans, Latinos listening to Indians, and Europeans listening to Pacific Islanders. From East to West, everyone’s voice will be heard.

Each participant and delegate to Tokyo 2020 is being asked to consider the following questions:

  1. What needs restoration?
  2. Why does it matter?
  3. How do we recover it?
  4. Who is responsible to pursue it?
  5. Where do we begin today?

 “The new believer’s worldview must be adjusted to a biblical worldview; his lifestyle changed to increasingly conform to the image of Christ; and his ethical conduct progressively marked by biblical morals. Ideally, this results in individuals applying the gospel of the kingdom to every sphere and pursuit of life— from government to economics, from education to health, and from science to creation care.”

This statement itself is quite reformational. In fact, it was something the Protestant reformers understood very well. They recognized what we seemed to forget along the way – that the gospel is not just about transforming individuals. It’s about God’s purposes in the whole world. We are called to proclaim the “gospel of the Kingdom” to all nations and to every area of society. Only then will the end come. In other words, it’s not just about our going everywhere that fulfills the Great Commission. It’s about the quality of what we are proclaiming and what we leave behind. It’s about teaching the nations to obey all that Christ commanded. It’s about God’s kingdom—not our denominational empires. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ—not the gospel of the latest fad or ecclesiastical franchise.

We look forward to what will emerge as God’s people take a pause and listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches today. May we truly be a generation that seeks His will and His kingdom above all else. May those who gather in Tokyo be filled with His presence and blessed with His counsel. We eagerly await what God will do and how He will speak as His people seek his heart and mind.


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

John Wesley’s Church Planting Movement:

Discipleship That Transformed a Nation and Changed the World

John Wesley’s Church Planting Movement:

When John Wesley was born in 1703, four million out of Britain’s five million people lived in absolute poverty— unless they found enough food for that day, they would begin to starve to death.

When John Wesley launched a Church Planting Movement in this context, he not only changed the eternal destinies of an estimated one million people who came to Christ through his ministry, he changed their economic status as well. Not only did the Methodists he led get saved, they got out of poverty and became a powerful influence in discipling their nation. Wilberforce and other “spiritual sons” of Wesley honored him as the “greatest man of his time.” The Methodists made such an impact on their nation that in 1913, historian Élie Halévy theorized that the Wesleyan revival created England’s middle class and saved England from the kind of bloody revolution that crippled France. Other historians, building on his work, go further to suggest that God used Methodism to show all the oppressed peoples of the world that feeding their souls on the heavenly bread of the lordship of Christ is the path to providing the daily bread their bodies also need.

Could Church Planting Movements of our day apply these same teachings with similar impact?

Personal Impact

Coming to Christ under the influence of the Wesleyan Methodists changed people by making Jesus the Lord of their lives. “Methodists” were given that name because they methodically sought to obey the Lord in all areas of their lives by obeying three main rules: • one, do no harm;

  • two, do as much good as you can; and
  • three, use all the means of grace that God has provided.

The resulting spiritual change affected their daily lives in four main ways, each of which improved the social and economic status of the new believers:

  • First, they abandoned sinful habits which had previously ruined their lives.
  • Second, they began a new life of holiness which led to health and wealth.
  • Third, by going to the Methodist meetings they learned to read, which gave them upward mobility.
  • And fourth, they developed a new view on money, which enabled them to profit from the technological innovations of their age.

Abandon Sinful Habits

To help Methodists obey the first rule, they gathered together into cell groups where they confessed their sins to one another and prayed for one another to receive self-control, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. They thus aided one another in gaining the strength to abandon sinful habits which had previously ruined their lives and consumed their resources.

In explaining the rule against doing harm, Wesley specifically mentioned drunkenness and fighting. When describing the change made by coming to Christ, he noted “the drunkard commenced sober; the whoremonger abstained from adultery and fornication.” Wesley may have mentioned the three sins of drunkenness, fighting and immorality because their effect was so obvious in his society.

Hogarth’s print, Gin Lane, shows the social decay of Wesley’s age. Gin had recently been invented. One-half of each year’s grain crop was turned into this poisonous liquid instead of being baked into healthful bread. A quarter of the houses in London were licensed to sell it and the police were powerless to stop the crimes of desperate drunken men.

The police were also overwhelmed by the fighting and killing of the mob. The law executed people for 169 capital crimes, but the regular march to the gallows did nothing to make the streets safe at night. Sexual immorality was common at all levels of society, and the nation was overwhelmed with illegitimate children.

When people got saved, they repented of their sinful lives. Forsaking drunkenness, fighting and immorality made obvious changes in their lives. Believers stayed sober and quit doing the crazy and dangerous things intoxicated people do. They stopped fighting and thus avoided the injuries and feuds that destroy productivity. They abandoned promiscuity and started valuing their families and raising their children. Simply renouncing these three self-destructive behaviors greatly improved the economic lives of the Methodists.

Begin a New Life of Holiness

While Wesley’s first general rule stopped the downward path of the Methodists, his second general rule, “Do all the good you can,” led them out of abject poverty. Wesley described this positive change: “The sluggard began to work with his hands, that he might eat his own bread. The miser learned to deal his bread to the hungry, and to cover the naked with a garment. Indeed the whole form of their life was changed: they had ‘left off doing evil, and learned to do well.’”

In his second rule Wesley said that Methodists should live with “all possible diligence and frugality” and “employ them [other Methodists] preferably to others, buying of one another, [and] helping each other in business.” These new lives of honesty and industry helped some Methodists succeed in business and others to become dependable and truthful employees. Besides raising their incomes, Methodism helped people curtail needless expenses and save their money for worthwhile endeavors. Wesley noted that the disciplines of the Christian life often lifted people from poverty: “For wherever true Christianity spreads, it must cause diligence and frugality, which in the natural course of things, must beget riches!”

Learning to Read

A third way in which salvation changed the economic life of Methodists was by teaching them to read. One of the means of grace which Methodists used in obedience to Wesley’s third rule was attending Methodist meetings. At these meetings Methodists were urged to read the Bible and taught to sing the hymns of Charles Wesley. As illiterate people learned to sing these hymns, they also learned to read.

Charles wrote thousands of hymns for the people called Methodist, who usually learned them by singing them one line at a time as they were called out by the song leader. This “lining out” of the hymns enabled the singers to memorize the songs they sang. When John later published the hymns and sold them cheaply, people could match the words they knew by heart with the printed words on the page, and thus teach themselves to read. Since the Methodists usually sang five hymns at every meeting, each gathering functioned as a thirty-minute adult literacy session.

Because literacy was the admission ticket to the middle class, Methodism provided the means for the upward mobility of thousands of poverty-stricken people.

A New View of Money

Finally, Methodism gave people a new view of money. Wesley often preached on this topic; his most famous message on money made three points: Gain all you can; save [economize] all you can; give all you can.

First, Methodists were to make as much money as they possibly could. Wesley said that despite its potential for misuse, there was no end to the good money can do: “In the hands of [God’s] children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. It gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of a husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame: yea, a lifter up from the gates of death!” Wesley urged Methodists to gain wealth through honest wisdom and unwearied diligence. “Put your whole strength into the work. Spare no pains,” Wesley exhorted. “But make sure the work does no harm to oneself or to the neighbor. Thus Methodists must avoid work with dangerous chemicals or in unhealthy environments. They must also not endanger their souls by any work that involves cheating or lying. Likewise, any trade that hurts the body, mind, or soul of the neighbor is out of bounds.” Thus distilling liquor, running a tavern, or peddling patent medicines were forbidden to Methodists.

Wesley’s second injunction, “Save all you can” had many practical implications: save all you can by refusing to gratify the desires of the flesh. “Despise delicacy and variety and be content with what plain nature requires.” Refuse also the desire of the eye with superfluous or expensive clothing, and reject the pride of life, buying nothing to gain the praise or envy of others. Wesley pointed out that gratifying such desires only increases them, so if people were to throw their money into the sea, they would be doing themselves and others less damage than if they bought needless goods.

Finally Wesley told Methodists to “Give all you can.” He pointed out that all money comes from God, and that people are not the owners, but only the trustees, of God’s money. He said that God wants believers to make sure that they and their families have adequate food, housing, clothing, tools, and savings to do all the work which God has appointed for them to do. He then stated that any money beyond these necessities must be given to the poor. “Render unto God not the tenth, nor a third, not half, but all that is God’s (be it more or less) by employing it all on yourself, your household, the household of faith, and all mankind in such a manner that you may give a good account of your stewardship.”

Altogether, this advice stirred Methodists to become “early adopters” and to benefit from the new opportunities the Industrial Revolution afforded.

Wesley’s teaching to pursue wealth in order to use it for good was not without its danger. Toward the end of his life he gave increasing attention to the dangerous temptation to justify buying whatever we can afford.

Discipling the Nation

Coming to Christ through the Methodist movement changed the lives of a million people in Britain and North America in the eighteenth century. As in other cases of “redemption and lift” through the power of the Gospel, most of these people and their children moved from the desperation of hand-to-mouth poverty to the security of middle-class life as they made Christ their Lord and experienced the impact of His power on their economic lives.

As these people moved up the social ladder, they began to influence the political life of their nation. They helped to transform Britain from an eighteenth-century kleptocracy— where the powerful used the government to fuel their lives of indulgence by exploiting the poor, into a nineteenth century democracy—which abolished slavery and used its empire to enrich the lives of every subject of the crown.

For Further Study

Here are three worthy efforts to summarize Wesley’s influence and/or his perspective on money:

  • England Before and After Wesley by Donald Andrew is a distillation of John Wesley Bready’s 1939 book by the same title.
  • “Four Lessons on Money From One of the World’s Richest Preachers” is my own more detailed analysis of Wesley’s teaching, model and observations
  • What Wesley Practiced and Preached About

Money is adapted from my “Four Lessons on Money”


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

The Church Involvement Continuum

24:14 Goal: Movement Engagements in Every Unreached People and Place by 2025 (70 months)

The Church Involvement Continuum

Since the release of our book, From Megachurch to Multiplication, we’ve had the privilege of training hundreds of pastors from across the country, and even some from around the world. Through the process, I constantly see pastors wrestling with how to implement DMM in their churches.

Do they leave the church alone and just do this DMM thing on the side? Do they implement some of the principles in their church? Do they take their church through a major transition? Do they just move on from their church and do this somewhere else?

Very early in the training I usually start to get these questions from the pastors. I’ve found myself responding in a similar way each time, so I put together a Google Doc called “Church Involvement Continuum”to present some various ways the Spirit might lead a pastor and church to implement DMM.

Let me say first: The absolute most important thing for you to do is listen to the Spirit and do whatever he tells you to do. We shouldn’t look at a continuum like this and pick the commitment level we like best. We shouldn’t bring our team together and take a vote. We shouldn’t pick a commitment level because it seems easiest. The Spirit still speaks to churches! He’ll show you what to do!

In Revelation 2-3, Jesus says one thing to all seven churches: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches” (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22, NLT).

How might this apply to us? We must listen to the Spirit and understand and obey what he is saying to the church. The Spirit still speaks! Do you know what the Spirit is saying to your church?

As you begin to process what DMM might look like in your church, you need to listen to the Spirit! The involvement continuum is not exhaustive. It represents just some of the ways that other churches have responded to the DMM vision.

Be encouraged that the Spirit will speak to you and your leadership if you have ears to hear what He wants to tell you. To be honest, though, when I look at many of the churches in movements overseas, they make the American church look prayerless and lukewarm. No wonder they hear so clearly from the Spirit about what they’re supposed to do. They spend a ton of time listening to Him!

Do you and the leadership of your church spend a lot of time listening to the Spirit? If you do, He’ll speak to you and you’ll know just what you should do. I find that so encouraging! Start praying today, “Lord, what do you want us to do? We are listening! And when we hear you, we will obey!” My guess is that what the Holy Spirit will tell you to do with DMM may not be what you would’ve picked. It probably won’t be the safe, easy, comfortable option. But the Lord’s plans for your life and your church are better than yours.

Way #1—Bless

The first way the Holy Spirit might lead a church to be involved with DMM is to pray for it and Bless it when it begins to make an impact in your city or area. This path doesn’t require any church-wide commitment to embrace DMM. This is simply understanding and supporting DMM in your area and not resisting it.

This is a very important step. As I’ve talked to people connected to movements overseas or read some of their writings, I continue to hear something very surprising. They often say that their greatest resistance in making more disciples comes from “traditional Christians.” By traditional Christian, I think they just mean Christians who go to traditional churches and think everyone should do things the way they do things. The truth is that traditional Christians often resist what they don’t understand or don’t like.

The first way a church might be involved in DMM is to bless the movement and pray for it!  For a traditional church to bless and pray for a movement, even if they aren’t a part of it, is a great contribution to movement work in an area. It keeps movement workers from being burdened by opposition from traditional churches. And it encourages movement workers to know the churches are praying for them.

Almost any pastor can lead their church to bless DMM work in their area, without pushback from the church. Nothing changes within the church. No one has to get on board. The proverbial “boat” isn’t being rocked at all. It’s simply a pastor leading his/her church to bless, not curse, DMM work in their area by supporting the workers and praying for the work.

My prayer is that every church would at least engage in DMM at this level. It requires no commitment and no cost. And it makes a significant contribution to DMM work in an area because it creates less opposition and more partnerships.

Way #2—Release

The second way the Holy Spirit might lead a church to be involved with DMM is to Release some of the “radicals” in the church. Release them to be trained by a DMM trainer/catalyst and sent out from your church to your city or area.

This builds on the first way of blessing and praying for movement work in your area. Like the first way, this doesn’t change the direction of the church. The vision stays the same and the programming stays the same. This is more of an underground, behind-the-scenes strategy that mainly affects the few radicals you send out.

The way this works is that a pastor or leadership team first identifies some people in the church who are “radicals.” These are the people so fired up that we have trouble containing them in our churches. They are like caged lions ready to break out and take the world by storm for King Jesus. They know there must be more than just the activities of the church and they would be excited to be trained and released to make disciples outside the church.

Many churches have a few people like this, but usually not a lot. They’re not antagonistic toward the church. They’re just discontent, but in a good way. They love their church but they know there’s got to be more.

After you identify the radicals, you cast vision to those radicals and release them to be trained by a DMM trainer/ catalyst. That trainer would show them how to multiply disciples and churches among the lost of your city or area: those who would probably never attend a traditional church like yours. According to statistics, that’s probably 90% or more of the people around you. We’ve got to open our eyes and see that most people aren’t coming to our churches. Most aren’t even interested in coming. We’ve got to release some people to “go” and pursue the lost, much like Jesus instructed in the Great Commission.

After training with a DMM trainer, the radicals might want to form a “DMM team” with other radicals to start “going and making disciples” in the most difficult parts of your city or area. If so, you and the leadership team would gladly bless and send them to do so. They would be analogous in some ways to missionaries sent out by the church – in this case to reach nearby people who would likely never go to a traditional church.

This doesn’t change much at the mother church. It just encourages some of the “radicals” in the church to chase the Romans 15:20 ambition (preaching where Christ is not known) God has put on their heart: to see your whole city or county reached.

I expect most pastors would need leadership approval (elders, deacons, or whoever governs the church) to implement this approach, since some of the radicals you send out might well be among your best givers or volunteers. This requires a little more commitment and risk on the part of the leadership than just blessing and praying for movement work in your area.

Some might ask: Can we release the radicals and still have them come to our church, so they can keep volunteering and giving? You could, but I wouldn’t recommend it – for the same reason you don’t recommend that people attend two different churches. It’s too difficult to get deeply involved in more than one church.

If these radicals stay involved in your church, they likely won’t get very involved in their DMM team (often formed into a DMM church seeking to start DMM churches among the lost). Do you continue to expect the same level of involvement from the missionaries your church sends overseas? Of course not. Besides the fact that they don’t live in your area and couldn’t attend anyway, you wouldn’t want them to come because you want them focused on their mission — reaching people who haven’t yet heard or responded to the gospel. The same applies here.

Would these radicals still be connected to your church? Absolutely! Would they still come on occasion to give reports of what God is doing? Absolutely! Would they be sent and supported by your church? Absolutely! There would still be a strong partnership and they would remain a part of your church family. You would be sending them out similarly to the way you send missionaries. In this case their focus would be the lost people in your city or area, who would never come to a traditional church.

This approach clearly requires a higher level of commitment than the first way, because you could lose some of your best givers and volunteers. But isn’t that a small sacrifice for your church, in order to potentially be a part of a movement of God that impacts the lost in your city or area?

We at Experience Life certainly thought so.  On our 10year anniversary, we laid hands on and commissioned our first 50+ “radicals” to be sent from our church to form DMM teams (which became DMM churches) to go and reach our city. It was very exciting and our whole church was involved. You don’t have to send them out as publicly as we did, but we definitely wanted to free up our radicals to go and reach the people in our city who our church would never reach — the 90% who need Jesus!

It’s been two years since we sent them out, and we’re so glad we did. They haven’t had to pass out bulletins at the door, watch kiddos, usher people to their seats or anything else like that at the mother church. We removed every potential distraction from them and told them we supported them and were cheering for them as we sent them out. I think they would all say it’s been much better being fully involved with their DMM church than being partially involved in their DMM church and partially involved in our traditional church.

Since we released our radicals two years ago, they’ve prayed for hundreds of hours, shared with thousands of people, and seen over 150 Discovery Groups started in multiple streams to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and even 5th generation. They share totally amazing stories of God’s work in advancing his kingdom! We’re so glad we released them! God has used them to bring more gospel light into the great darkness around us.

Way #3—Hybrid

The third way the Holy Spirit might lead a church to be involved with DMM is through a Hybrid approach. One of my friends and mentors, Roy Moran, wrote a whole book on this topic called Spent Matches. I highly recommend you buy and read it. It’s fantastic!

He borrows the hybrid analogy from the car industry where some cars have both an electric motor and a gas engine. He compares DMM to the electric motor and the traditional church model to the gas engine. Both run under the same hood and work together to boost performance and create better fuel economy.

The hybrid approach to DMM allows you to keep doing what you’ve been doing and add an additional DMM track in your church that you publicly promote and invite people to join. Whereas the previous two ways talked more about a private approach to DMM, things become more public with the hybrid model.

According to Roy, the hybrid approach can take different forms. In his book he talks about how his church has different small group tracks: one for those inside the church, and one geared for those outside the church (using DMM principles). He recently told me about another church that used a hybrid approach by implementing DMM in their college ministry but not with everyone else.

Hybrid simply means you publicly integrate DMM principles into some part of your church while everything else remains the same. It’s like adding an electric motor to a car already running on a gas engine.

In Spent Matches, Roy writes, “The hybrid car became a metaphor for Shoal Creek [Community Church]. On one side is the old attraction model—gas engine—inviting people each week to come discover a life they’ve always wanted. On the other side a gospel planting model— electric engine—that equips people to move into their neighborhoods, workplaces, and relational networks with the life-changing truth of Jesus.”

While a hybrid strategy may initially sound preferable to some because it sounds like the best of both worlds, it’s not for the faint of heart. Roy acknowledges that there will almost assuredly be a cost to implement it. But, for some, this may be how the Holy Spirit leads your church to be involved in DMM.  As I said at the outset, make sure you let the Holy Spirit choose for you rather than deciding what’s most convenient or what you or your church may like the best.

When I explain to pastors these various ways a church can be involved in DMM, I tell them that with the hybrid approach and the remaining two ways (mentioned below), you’ll have to count a cost. These approaches require sacrifice, courage, and faith to implement. Don’t let that dissuade you. Often what the Lord calls us to do requires sacrifice, courage, and faith. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will lead you and your church to implement a hybrid approach like Roy’s church did and ours did as well.

With the hybrid model, the church becomes publicly committed to DMM and more people can get involved. DMM is now officially inside the church and positively affecting certain areas and ministries of the church. And most likely those areas will become more outwardly focused and more intent on making disciples among lost people, which is awesome!

Pursuing the hybrid builds on the other two ways to get involved. It allows you to bless and pray for movement work in your area. It allows you to release radicals who want to be sent from the church to do this exclusively. And it involves the entire church in the process by implementing DMM principles into various ministries in the church.

I encourage you to begin praying for the Lord’s best, with these three ways in mind. God’s Spirit may lead you to something even more radical, with even greater potential to reach the lost around you. If you’re interested to explore further, I invite you to read about two more possibilities on my blog.

Way #4 – Transition

A fourth way the Holy Spirit might lead a church to be involved with DMM is through a “transition” to a singular DMM focus. Instead of having two visions you’re running alongside one another, like with “hybrid,” you decide to make DMM the primary vision. While you may continue to do many of the things you’ve done before, like weekend services, you leverage everything in the church to help accomplish the primary vision of catalyzing a movement in your city/region. Read more at

Way #5 – Relaunch

One more way that the Holy Spirit might lead a church to be involved with DMM is through relaunching as a network of DMM churches. Honestly, one year ago, I probably wouldn’t have even included “relaunch” in the list. Not because it didn’t belong in the list but because I wouldn’t have even known it existed until I got to witness what the Holy Spirit has done in our church over the last six months. It’s been remarkable! Read more at and read the articles in the Jan-Feb 2020 issue of Mission Frontiers.

May the Lord lead you into his best as you listen to and follow the voice of his Spirit.

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

The Slippery Slide of Starting Movements

The Slippery Slide of Starting Movements

I saw a funny video some years back. The clip showed a kid trying to run up a slippery, wet slide. He would back up, get a running start and go for it with all his might. A few steps up the slide, it would get the best of him. Down he went. Watching him go down, spinning, and flailing was hilarious (it’s a little sick, but we seem to enjoy watching others fall grandly). Undeterred he attempted to go up the slide again. He’d shake himself off and giggle loudly. Lowering his head, with a running start, he attacked the challenge ahead. Finally, after a mad dash at it, he somehow made it to the top. There, hands raised in the air, his high-pitched voice screamed with the thrill of victory!

I can still see his joy, even in the many attempts it took to get to the top. He was determined, unfazed by failure and thoroughly loved participating in this test of the will.

Enjoy the Challenge

Jesus admonished us to be childlike in our faith. As we pursue Disciple Making Movements we should learn from the kid in that video. Learn to laugh. Enjoy the attempts, even when they don’t produce success. There is joy in the DMM journey! Starting a movement can be a thrilling challenge.

I coach and train many disciple-makers. During calls or visits, they often express frustration and disappointment. They’re stuck in the “messy middle” of this audacious God-sized goal.

We don’t often hear failure stories. This is true even when learning from those failures was the very thing that catalyzed the movement. More often, we hear stories of victory, breakthrough, radical multiplication, and organic growth. In the DMM tales, I confess, even the ones I tell, it sounds so easy. Almost always, however, behind the success story is a back story, one that involves numerous lessons learned from failures.

Some Plants Are Fragile to Get Started

I love gardening and playing with plants. Some plants are beautiful but require quite a lot of care to get them growing. Once they are rooted and established, they flourish. In the seedling stage, it’s easy to kill them. DMMs can be like this too. Once they are up and running, with the DNA firmly established, there is no stopping them. In the early stages, however, they are easy to kill.

It’s not impossible to start a Disciple Making Movement. Not at all. We can see this from the rising numbers on the front of this magazine. More and more movements are springing up across the globe. It’s an exciting time to get on board with what God is doing through DMMs.

Count the Cost and Go For It

Jesus told a parable about a man who built a tower and couldn’t finish it. He also told of a king who went to war.

28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? 31Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Luke 14:28-30 NKJV.

Every follower of Jesus is called to engage in multiplying disciples (Matt. 28:18). When groups of disciples embrace this truth, movements can begin. There is a price to be paid though, a cost to count, when pursuing this dream.

Expect to experience failure as you go after a DMM. Don’t be surprised by it. Gain understanding from difficulties, then move on. Learn, adapt, change, and even laugh at yourself as you slide back down that slippery slope! Keep at it and one day soon you’ll get to the top.

Ten Common Failures

Below are ten of the most common failures. See any of these in what you are doing now? Or have done in the past? Don’t be dismayed. Laugh (or at least smile), learn, change and try again.

1—Failure to Simplify.

How we love to complicate things! Simplicity is not only beautiful. It multiplies easily. Resist the temptation to create structure or complex systems. In reporting, training, evangelism, story-telling or story-crafting approaches, keep it simple.

While working in South Asia we realized the process we were using of crafting stories and creating story sets was too complex. Our indigenous workers struggled with it, even with significant training. If we wanted our method to reproduce, we had to simplify. It took hard work to find new, simpler ways. We had to let go of some ideals and desires to keep things simple.

A rule of thumb is: if it takes more than an hour or two to train someone to do it, it’s too complicated. If a fourth or fifth grader can’t learn it, it’s not simple enough.

2—Failure to Contextualize.

We often apply methods and practices without considering the context. It’s human nature.

We want a magic formula for success. We watch a movie, or visit a DMM that is multiplying well, and come back enthused. “I am going to do things exactly as they do it there!” we declare.

Don’t try to reach Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists with the same approach. It doesn’t work! World-views are too different. The same story or Bible study set you used for high caste Brahmins in Bali will likely not work well in Chicago with Polish immigrants.

DMMs are rapidly growing in poor, rural communities. They also are accelerating in places with significant levels of persecution. Your context may be quite different. What those movements do may not work in your place, with the people you are trying to reach.

That doesn’t mean a movement can’t happen where you are. It just means that you have to contextualize your approach. Adapt principles but adjust methods. Experiment and observe.

There may be someone working in your people group who is not necessarily applying DMM principles but is seeing great success in evangelism. What can you learn from them? How could you adapt it to fit DMM principles? To make it more reproducible and organic?

Some things simply can’t be transplanted or adapted. They are too foreign. If I try to grow a tropical plant in Minnesota, it will likely die. The climate is too different.

3— Failure to lay a Strong Foundation.

We sometimes expect rapid results without building strong foundations. We hear about how quickly movements multiply, but that can give the wrong impression. Once they are moving, they do indeed grow quickly. What we fail to realize is that getting the first groups started can take some time. This is particularly true when working cross-culturally and in a resistant context. It can also be true when there are many traditional churches nearby.

It takes an investment of time to learn the culture and worldview of the people you are reaching. It can take time to find a Person of Peace, to lay a strong foundation of prayer and intercession.

I have seen movement leaders and trainers who started movements relocate to new places. They know how to start a DMM and have done so before. Still, it takes time for them to start another one in a new place. This is not uncommon. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Digging the foundation, establishing yourself spiritually and relationally in a new community is slow work. These strong foundations will lay the groundwork to sustain future growth and the radical multiplication God wants to bring. If you are an insider to the culture, this does accelerate things significantly. Still, there is a foundation that must be laid.

4—Failure to Humbly evaluate.

Success can become our greatest problem. When we see significant growth, it is easy to grow smug. The temptation to over-report to please donors creeps in for many. I’m not talking about having an optimistic outlook here. Many leaders have that. What I’m referring to is a lack of integrity in reporting due to laziness or letting financial donor pressure get the best of you. Along with this comes the tendency to under-evaluate what we are doing because we haven’t tracked things properly and honestly. Pride and busyness cause issues that can lead to the movement’s failure if left unchecked.

5—Failure to localize Financial ownership.

Finances are needed to grow movements among the unreached. No doubt about it. Great caution must be taken though in whether, if ever, you bring in outside funds. It is easy to kill a movement with money.

It destroys local ownership, initiative, and sustainability. Outside donors begin to control decision making rather than the indigenous leaders.

6—Failure to persevere.

Learn to “fail forward.” Perseverance is a crucial characteristic of every disciple-maker’s life. This is particularly true in those who’ve chosen to pioneer DMMs among the least reached peoples of the world. Don’t give up and don’t give in. If what you are doing isn’t working yet, and you are prayerfully evaluating regularly, just keep going. Persevere.

God will bring it about as you refuse to give up. (Gal. 6:9)

7—Failure to multiply and train leaders.

Movements can fail due to a lack of trained leaders. By this, I don’t mean seminary graduates. I mean those who have been mentored in the field. Movements that give focused time to leadership development can sustain growth. Those that fail to prioritize this are unable to.

8—Failure to diversify giftings.

Some years ago, I read that a characteristic of movements is that they have a charismatic leader. I’ve seen this to be true. Movements that are sustained, however, do not depend on one apostolic leader. It is not easy for powerful leaders to move into the background. Many fail to release control and authority. They love being in the limelight, getting the glory for the growth happening. Many enjoy the perks of being flown around the world to speak or attend conferences and share about the multiplication their movement is experiencing. This is a significant danger. Charisma can get things started, but only when there is a strong team of elders and trainers who work together are movements sustained. One man shows don’t multiply.

Suffering and movements go hand in hand. It is easy though to under-estimate the spiritual warfare and traditional church opposition that is normal when a movement takes off. Many don’t adequately count that cost and grow timid or confused when this happens.

Physical persecution from both the church and the world are normal when the radical growth of God’s kingdom takes place. The Apostle Paul experienced it and so will we.

Are you willing to be misunderstood? To suffer loss and walk through pain? This is particularly hard for us Western Christians to embrace. We don’t have a theology of suffering and are plagued with prosperity teachings. That may be true of some African churches as well.

Financial hardship, spiritual attack, sickness and threats are going to water the growth of the movement. As Paul said to Timothy, “Endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ.” (2 Tim. 2:3-4)

10—Failure to Quickly learn from our mishaps.

Entrepreneurs know that if you want to start a successful business you have to be willing to try a few ideas and fail. Fifty percent of small business attempts fail within the first five years.1 It’s not that different when church planting or attempting to start a multiplying movement. I’ve said it before but will say it again. Make failure your friend and don’t let it get you down. Learn from it. Expect it. Make changes and adjustments and try again. Roy Moran in his excellent book “Spent Matches” talks about failing quickly. I agree with him. Don’t waste time moping around or condemning yourself. Failure is a success if you’ve learned from it.

All Heaven Will Dance

The above list is not exhaustive, but ten is enough to think about. No matter what you do, you can’t avoid some mistakes on this DMM journey. Almost no one gets to the top on their first try. The great news is that God is cheering for you, laughing with you and helping you have the strength to go after it yet again. Enjoy the slippery slope and celebrate grandly when by some good luck and God’s sovereign grace you reach the top. All Heaven will dance as thousands come into the Kingdom…when you multiply disciples effectively among the least, last and lost.

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

The Story of Movements and the Spread of the Gospel

The Story of Movements and the Spread of the Gospel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

The Birth of a Movement

The Birth of a Movement

Birth phase—Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan movement

He went out half-naked in his hair-shirt into the winter woods, walking the frozen ground between the frosty trees; a man without a father. He was penniless, he was parentless, he was to all appearance without a trade or a plan or a hope in the world; and as he went under the frosty trees, he burst suddenly into song.

—G.K. Chesterton

Francis’ father was furious. He had endured his son’s wild living, but Pietro Bernardone would not allow Francis to squander the family’s wealth on the poor. He dragged Francis before the Bishop of Assisi for a ruling. As a rich silk merchant, Bernardone had plans for his son to one day take over the business and become a leading man in the city of Assisi, but Francis disappointed him.

In AD 1201, Francis left his home seeking adventure as a soldier. He fought with Assisi’s forces against the city of Perugia and was captured, imprisoned, and later ransomed.

On the way to his next battle, he heard a voice ask, “Is it better to obey the servant or the Lord?” When he answered, “Lord, what would you have me do?” he was told to return home and wait. As he waited, Francis became overwhelmed by the emptiness of his life. Looking for answers, Francis made a pilgrimage to Rome, and on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, he exchanged clothes with a beggar and begged for his dinner.

After Francis returned to Assisi, he was praying in the broken-down church of St. Damian when a voice spoke to him from the cross: “Go and restore my house.” Taking the command literally, he rode to his father’s store and loaded his horse with fine fabrics. Selling the cloth and the horse, he used the money to minister to the needy and restore the church at St. Damian. Furious, his father brought him before the bishop for a ruling. The bishop sympathized with Francis’ generosity but ruled the money was not his to give away. Francis responded by stripping naked and laying his clothes at his father’s feet. He renounced his family ties and inheritance, declaring his trust in his heavenly Father to provide. Bernardone gathered up his son’s clothes and left, while the bishop wrapped his cloak around a trembling Francis. So began the Franciscan movement.

Rejected by his father, Francis begged for stones to restore ruined churches in the countryside around Assisi. In the chapel of Portiuncula, he read Jesus’ instructions to his disciples:

“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.” (Matt. 10:7–10)

Through his struggle, Francis found God’s calling: He would do what Jesus commanded and proclaim the message of the kingdom of heaven, trusting God to provide everything he needed.

Exchanging the mission of Jesus for wealth and security, the monastic orders had abandoned poverty to live in comfort. Francis of Assisi refused to accept the gap between the monastic ideal and everyday reality; eventually, thousands followed his example.

Francis’ dream was to live life like Jesus and his disciples did—as an apostolic brotherhood with no distinction between clergy and laity, living in obedience to God’s leading, and without the hindrance of possessions. The motivation for this was a passionate love for Christ. Bonaventure, a follower of Francis, described him as “completely absorbed by the fire of divine love like a glowing coal.” Francis’ response to the decline of settled monasticism was the birth of mobile missionary bands of friars (brothers). Wherever they went, they preached the joy of repentance, and trusted God for their needs. Francis and many of his followers came from wealthy and noble families, but they made the poor and the outcast the special concern of the Order. This was part of Francis’ commitment to reach people for Christ outside the walls of the cloister and the borders of Christendom.

Francis of Assisi was true to his calling, and his life drew others who were willing to lay down their lives. The people of Assisi couldn’t decide if Francis was a saint or a madman. A few chose to believe he was a saint. Bernard of Quintavalle was a wealthy and prominent man, yet he sold his possessions and gave away his fortune to the poor, joining Francis as a beggar. Next came Peter Catanii, a lawyer. Within a year, Francis had eleven followers. As the numbers grew, Francis organized his followers into small traveling bands who preached repentance. The Franciscans preached in the open air, on street corners, in the market places, and in open fields. Speaking in the ordinary language of the people, their vivid messages inspired and moved people to repentance and joy before God. Francis was never ordained as a priest. Similarly, those who followed his lead were ordinary, untrained men, resented by the clergy for their success.

Like Francis, founders inspire others to act. They win the trust of followers by putting their lives on the line for the cause. They demonstrate the unconventional tactics that will achieve a movement’s purposes and they protect it from those who bring their own agendas.

Francis of Assisi excelled as a founder and lived what he believed. His authority flowed from his uncompromising commitment to Christ. He had little time for organizational structures and external requirements. He excelled as a visionary but struggled to ensure the movement adapted to its meteoric rise. Regardless, he remains one of the most endearing figures of Christian history.


  • Wrestle with God: Surrender to God to bring clarity of vision.
  • Fuel discontent: Raise awareness of the gap between the ideal and reality.
  • Dare to dream: Know where you are going, even if you don’t yet know how you’ll get there.
  • Commit to action: Show how the vision can be turned into reality.
  • Build a team: Call people who are willing to lay down their lives for the cause.



This is an article from the

Word, Works, Signs…

Word, Works, Signs…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some of the things that shaped my life. I guess I’m at that age where you reflect and focus more on passing things on to those who will follow you. 

One “shaping” element that I am very thankful for is that I grew up under leaders in a church who loved God’s Word. They studied it diligently, taught it well and passed a love for it to me.

 I wouldn’t change any of that. 

But I fear that in my living out of what I learned, is that I tend to focus on the Word – sometimes with pride-fullness – and minimized “works.” When I teach, I emphasize the need to “do good works” based on Ephesians 2:10. We all know and memorize Eph. 2:8-9 but verse 10 is as important: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV, here and below.)

 There is, of course, the long-running debate on this issue from the 1930s if not before. Perhaps the best (or worst?) characterization of that debate is between the social gospel and evangelism. I’ve always thought it was a false dichotomy. I understand some concerns from both “sides,” and I’ve tended towards the importance of sharing the Word – hopefully flowing from good works. 

Paul wrote about both, as Eph. 2 suggests. He also wrote about this in Romans 15, where he is explaining what he has been doing. Remember most of those involved in the Roman fellowships (there are several, see chapter 16) haven’t met Paul. He is on his way to visit and raise money! (See 15:24) In 15:16 he describes the idea of “priesting” the gospel and boasts of what Christ has done. Then, in Romans 15:18-19, he uses an idea from Romans 1:5, which says: “…to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations….” Verses 18–19 says, “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ…." 

When I preach on this missional passage, I focus on that last phrase and explain what I believe Paul meant by having “fulfilled the ministry.” I don’t usually talk about HOW he did that. Do you see it? • Word • deed • by signs and wonders • by the power of the Spirit….

It is clear that the Spirit of God is the one doing it. We all know that neither Paul or you nor I could anyway. But still, somehow, in my desire not to debate issues related to gifts and the Holy Spirit, I avoided the “signs and wonders” part. It may be that today, signs and wonder have little if anything to do with spiritual gifts. Yes, some of the N.T. gifts included things which were “signs” to point to the Son and the work of God. The key thing I need to relearn and live out is that Holy Spirit can work in any time and in any way He wants. We need to pursue God, moment by moment listen to His Spirit and then watch Him work through us everywhere, especially in and among the unreached. 

Many have said the unreached are unreached because they are the harder to reach. Others say that “great religions” of the world don’t see our western Christianity as a great improvement. Both are generalizations. Perhaps it is because we haven’t actually sent anyone to try and connect with the people and communicate gospel truth in a way that they can understand. Others say we haven’t prayed enough, but as I see huge prayer movements globally with many focused on the remaining unreached I am encouraged that we may be close to breakthrough. Many efforts are increasing prayer for and engagement with Frontier People Groups – these are Unreached People Groups with no known movements with less than one in a thousand being a Christian of any kind.

We know that the reaching of these cultures is dependent on God’s timing and the work of the Holy Spirit. Are we listening to Him as we reach out to people of other, very different perspectives?




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

Patterns in Long-Lasting Movements

Patterns in Long-Lasting Movements

As I write, millions of acres are burning in Australia. Most attribute the fires to winds and climate change, but authorities have arrested over 180 people for starting the fires, 27 deliberately.1

Movements in history are similar. While they are propelled by the wind of the Holy Spirit, God uses people to start them and plans to spread them. To see what long lasting movements have in common, I have begun studying over a dozen movements in history that lasted over 100 years and impacted hundreds of thousands of people. Here is what I have found so far.

Five patterns in Lasting Movements:

1) They were started by a person called by God and compelled by the Holy Spirit.

2) Each individual continually sought God for a specific unfolding plan to spread the vision widely.

3) The plans resulted in highly committed groups with the same vision that were small and self-replicating.

4) The groups engaged in transforming both the individuals and their broader community.

5) Institutionalizing or aligning with powers seemed to slow or stop movements.

 No people group or nation has become identified with Christ without a movement taking place among them at some point, with the gospel spreading faster than the growth of the population. But these movements don’t just happen.

A Person with a Plan

Paul set out with his companions to tell the diaspora synagogues of the Greek world about the Messiah Jesus. But, under the compulsion of the Holy Spirit, Paul realized God was calling him uniquely to spread the gospel in the Gentile world, leaving behind communities of faith with designated elders.2 When movements to Christ had been started in one region, he moved on to the next, leaving teammates behind to finish the work of establishing committed communities. 

Successful movements have been mostly started by individuals called by God and then directed by the Holy Spirit to slowly develop an organized plan. These individuals were either already a part of the people group or they learned the language and culture very well and were quickly joined by native coworkers. Their unfolding plans included a concern to establish apostolic teams or small groups with the same calling over a large geographic area, always pushing into areas with no witness. The founding individuals continued in their calling for the rest of their lives, sometimes supported by spouses, but often single or not supported by their spouses. The role of Bible study should not be discounted; however, it was not personally available in most of these movements as it is in modern movements.

In the 5th century, St Patrick was called to Ireland, not only to win the Irish to faith but to instigate the extensive Celtic missionary movement, which sent bands of disciples to set up monastic evangelistic outposts throughout central Europe, bringing many people groups to Christ. Likewise, in the 13th century, St Francis was compelled by an encounter with the Holy Spirit to follow the example of Luke 10, where Jesus sent his followers out from town to town to places he planned to come later. The Franciscan movement resulted in three lasting monastic traditions (male, female and married) and evangelized hundreds of thousands in both Europe and around the world. After an encounter with the Holy Spirit in the 18th century, having previously failed as a missionary, John Wesley started the lasting “evangelical awakening” movement, by setting up small-group accountability bands and classes based on James 5:16. (“Confess your sins one to another and pray for one another, that you might be healed.”) He rode thousands of miles to establish groups all over England.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit used analysis and demographics to convict and compel. In 1792, William Carey sparked the entire Protestant mission era not just with vision, but with statistics and a call to use “means” (organized endeavors) to send the gospel to completely unreached nations, which began the era of the Protestant mission agencies.3 After others’ abortive attempts to reach the Chinese, Hudson Taylor was compelled by the Holy Spirit to take up the challenge (1849). Concerned with China’s vast inland areas with no witnesses, he made sure that there were at least two witnesses in every province in China, eating, dressing and speaking like them, 800 workers in 300 stations, startingschools and Bible studies.

In these long-lasting movements, the founder sought the ongoing guidance of the Holy Spirit for a self-sustaining plan that emphasized small, active groups and geographic coverage. Many people, though filled with the Holy Spirit, have not started lasting movements. For example, evangelist George Whitefield, contemporary of Wesley, had no plan and famously lamented that the thousands he had won to the Lord were like “a rope of sand.” 

Committed Small Groups Changing Society

Lasting movements seem to have invariably had small committed communities with a sense of unified destiny to spread their transformational message to other communities. Large gatherings, like Jesus and the thousands, or Pentecost, were not the backbones of the movements, and in most cases special buildings were not erected or important to the movements.

From the beginning, movements to Christ spread most rapidly when they were person-to-person, almost “underground,” bringing hope in a way often perceived as subversive to the powers that be, as can be seen in Jewish or Roman society. The early Christian movement became quickly known for rescuing children from infanticide, healing and caring for sick and widows, taking in plague victims, and other remarkable counter-cultural endeavors, outlined by Rodney Stark in the Rise of Christianity.

Conversely, while being organized into small groups seems beneficial, being institutionalized seems to counter the effectiveness of movements. As Ralph Winter wrote: “Every single denomination in this country that has evolved a required formal, extensive graduate professional training for ordination is now going downhill. There are no exceptions in the whole world.”4

Movements to Christ have been hurt when they have become, or seemed to be, aligned with political, economic, or ecclesiastical powers, especially foreign powers. Faith in Christ spread in all directions for the first 300 years, before becoming overly aligned with the Roman Empire during the 4th century, when the enemies of Rome, like Persia, massacred thousands of Christians. State-sponsored councils resulted in anathemas placed on leaders of other movements to Christ and in the first military attacks on outlying Christian communities, like the Donatists. The spread of the gospel by military might met with resistance and was largely superficial and ineffective.

While dedicated believers in Roman “Christian” society began to hunker down in monasteries, the Celtic missionaries from powerless Ireland became the most successful starters of movements to Christ in Europe for the next 200 years. Patrick’s Celtic movement stood against the constant violence in Irish, Scottish, Gothic and Roman cultures, and some famous Celtic leaders set off as missionaries as penance for violence.

Later missionaries were often more successful in sparking movements to Christ when they challenged instead of aligned with colonial powers—maintaining their commitment to be ambassadors for Christ alone. Their compassion for their people group included fighting against things destroying their families, whether from without or from within. Hudson Taylor’s missionaries sided with the Chinese against Britain in the centurylong fight to free China from opium-pushing British merchants, earning undying gratitude from the Chinese.

Those coming to Christ, now members of a heavenly kingdom, supported one another in their deliverance from sin as well as banding together to stand against earthly injustice. For example, the Wesleyan groups fought generation after generation against slavery and also against alcohol, which was destroying the poor in England and America. Greedy economic interests of global companies still deal ruthlessly with unreached people groups, enslaving them as laborers or customers for the alcohol, tobacco and other drug industries--addiction forcing the sale of their children into the sextrafficking industry.5

Even a long-lasting secular movement bears out these patterns. Karl Marx had a vision for changing the “League of Justice,” a semi-Christian utopian socialist group in Europe (1830s). The group’s stated goal was “the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth, based on the ideals of love of one’s neighbor, equality and justice” and their motto was “All men are brothers.”6 Marx and Engel joined this “Justice League” and changed the name to “The  Communist League” with the new motto “Workers of the world unite!” They turned a dying organization into a lasting global movement, by issuing The Communist Manifesto (1848) and by copying the card-carrying accountability cell groups structure of Wesley’s movement. The Communist cell groups focused on indoctrinating and developing members into committed revolutionary “comrades.” The small groups “are Communism’s cutting edge…a Communist may belong to many cells…Wherever you have three or more Communists, there you have a Communist cell. They are expected to work together in an organized way in the interests of Communism,…a body of activists with welldefined aims, a single mind and purpose.”Even though the Communist movement is a false hope, destroying the lives of many, it has tapped into people’s desire to be part of a committed community and a movement of hope to make their world a better place. 

We should not fear, but welcome, committed groups of Christ followers bringing their force to bear against whatever is destroying their families. This activism shines the light of God’s love in their communities, even when they cannot publicly share their faith due to persecution. Movements to Christ throughout history have been moved by the Holy Spirit to pull their people groups out of everything from violence, slavery, and idolatry, to infanticide, cannibalism, promiscuity and addiction. Why let the Communists, socialists, or fascists try to claim the high ground of social transformation, with skewed priorities, when historical movements to Christ have been exceedingly more successful in bringing peace, health, and brotherly love to communities?

As we seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in sparking lasting movements to Christ, it is important to recognize the importance of Bible-centered, transformative small groups, where believers learn to listen to and be led by the Holy Spirit. In addition, it is important for them to understand they are part of a spreading movement of hope, rescuing their people group, and even the whole world, from Satanic forces and false hopes.



  2. 2  Allen, Roland, A Roland Allen Reader, The Compulsion of the Spirit, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983.

  3. 3

  4. 4   Ralph D. Winter, “The Largest Stumbling Block to Leadership Development in the Global Church,” in Frontiers in Mission: Discovering and Surmounting Barriers to the Missio Dei, 4th ed., ed. Ralph D. Winter (Pasadena, CA: WCIU Press, 2008), 64.

  5. 5 For the full story on this, see the PDFs of the recent Mission Frontiers issue (Sept/October 2019): Making a Killing: The Global Death Industries and Missionary Response.

  6. 6 Volkov, G.N., et al., The Basics of Marxist-Leninist Theory. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1979.

  7. 7 Hyde, Douglas, Dedication and Leadership: Learning from the Communists, U. of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana, 1966, pages 143-146.

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

Movements are Showing the Way to Reach All Peoples

Movements are Showing the Way to Reach All Peoples

Movements to Christ have always been the way that God has reached entire peoples. While movements have become much more frequent in our day, they are not new. They have been a continual reality for two millennia as God has worked according to His sovereign will to reach entire peoples with the gospel. We highlight a few of these movements in this latest edition of Mission Frontiers.

There is, however, something quite new and unique about the movements taking place in our present day.

The movements that used to occur “by accident” with the combination of a visionary leader and his empowerment by the Holy Spirit, are now happening more purposefully as godly leaders learn how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. In our lead article starting on page 8, Rebecca Lewis, identifies the common elements and patterns that are characteristic of both past and present movements. These movements are a combination of visionary leaders led by the Holy Spirit with a plan or strategy for success.

 Our mission “technology” continues to grow as our understanding of how to catalyze movements to Christ increases with every new movement that is born. We now have over 1,035 movements that we can learn from on an ongoing basis. The study of these movements increases our ability to start more of them. 

While we know so much more about how movements are started and grow, it is still not as simple as A+B=Movement. There is always the indispensable and non-quantifiable factor of the Holy Spirit. The analogy of the sailboat (see page 11 of the Jan.–Feb. 2020 issue) is applicable here. We need both good methods, plans and strategies and the power of the Holy Spirit in order to start a movement. It is not one or the other, but both. In order to see movement, a sailboat needs its sails and other equipment set properly for the maximum potential movement. Sailboat races are won or lost based on how skillfully the boat is prepared and guided to most effectively catch the wind. But if the wind of the Holy Spirit is not blowing, you will not see movement no matter how well the sails are trimmed. Again, we need both good strategies for multiplication and the Holy Spirit. Our job is to do all we can with wisdom and knowledge to pursue movements and to listen to and pursue the Holy Spirit. The research done by Rebecca Lewis confirms this. So we are now without excuse. We know how movements start and how to grow them in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. There should be smooth sailing from now on, right? Unfortunately, another factor is creeping into this picture with rough seas ahead. 

A Victim of Our Own Success

While we should be able to train movement catalysts and deploy them to every unreached people with the knowledge we now have of how movements work, the enemy is sowing confusion in our ranks. For the longest time, those of us who have believed in the power of Kingdom Movements to reach all peoples have worked tirelessly to convince the mission world that these movements are the real deal and the most biblical way to reach all peoples. There are still lingering pockets of skepticism, but we have succeeded in making movements the new popular thing in missions. The good news is that many more people are interested in learning how to start movements among the unreached and believe that a movement in their people group is possible. The bad news is that some are watering down what a movement is and what it takes to start and grow one. They take their own ministry preferences and slap a “movement” label on it, even though it bears no resemblance to the 1,035 Known Kingdom Movements taking place all over the world. In order for us to continue to make progress in fostering movements in all peoples, we need to align ourselves with the core elements that make movements work. Some of these are identified in our lead article. To fail to do so, could mean a halt to future progress and a corruption of existing movements as confusion spreads. A clear understanding of what a movement is and what it is not is essential for future progress.

Four Marks of a Movement

In order for a movement to be considered a movement, it must include at least the following: 

  1. 1. Disciples making disciples one generation after another. A move-ment is not about gathering a lot of people together to listen to a speaker. As wonderful as Billy Graham and his stadium crusades were, it was not a movement because those coming to Christ were not effectively trained to make disciples one generation after another.

    2. Churches planting more churches, generation after generation past the fourth generation in multiple streams. Each time a church plants another church that is one more generation. When there are four or more streams of church planting four generations or more deep, that is the initial threshold of becoming a Kingdom Move-ment. Each of these streams will have multiple streams itself. Rebecca Lewis mentions that historically movements have consisted of small groups of committed believers. Our modern day movements are still built upon small groups of committed believers that eventually turn into churches. These small groups are often called Discovery Groups.

    3. The priesthood of all believers is the foundation of all movements. Martin Luther taught this
    doctrine and it is becoming a reality in our day through DMMs, CPMs and Kingdom Movements—all names for the genuine movements flourishing in our day. The priesthood of all believers means that every Jesus follower has the biblical authority to baptize, serve communion, evangelize, make disciples and start new churches. Jesus gave us this authority in Matt. 28:18-20.

    4. Simple, biblical and reproducible means of training and leadership development. The DNA estab-lished at the start of a movement will determine whether that move-ment will grow or die. The greater the requirements for making a disciple, the less likely that a disciple will be able to reproduce that training in another, thus stalling or killing the multigenerational nature of these disciple making movements. At their core these movements are engines of leadership development.

There are many other things that char-acterize the Kingdom Movements of our day such as extraordinary prayer, accountability and listening to the Holy Spirit, but without at least these four elements you cannot call it a movement. As the frontier mission movement moves forward, let us learn from past and present movements and set our sails for the unreached.

Join Us as a Mission Frontiers Vision Caster

Mission Frontiers exists to cast the vision and provide the resources to foster Kingdom Movements in every people and place so that every person may have access to the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ as soon as possible. But we cannot do this without the partnership of you, our readers. Producing Mission Frontiers six times a year is not inexpensive. There are fixed costs that must be met regardless of how many subscribers we have. Subscriptions and advertising do not cover our expenses. We need people who believe in what we are doing and are willing to come alongside us in the following ways. 

Pray: We need people to pray for the success of our mission to mobilize the global church to focus on fostering Kingdom Movements in all peoples and places. I need your prayers for strength, wisdom and godly insights for each issue of MF. The enemy of our souls would like to silence us because our message is a direct threat to his territory among the unreached peoples. 

Donate: We need your donations— both large and small—if we are to cover our costs and then go on to expand this ministry into other languages. We need committed regular support from the many readers who believe in this work. But even if you can only afford $25 or $30, every little bit helps. To give, please go to http://www.frontierventures org, .click on the Donate button and put MA 030 in the dialog box. 

Share: The farther the material in MF spreads, the better it is for accomplishing our mission. We give free permission for people to reprint material that originates with MF and is not reprinted from another source. We only ask that you give us source credit and that you provide a link back to the MF website when reprinted material is posted online. On our website at we have PDFs of each article and issue. Please download these PDFs, print them and share them with others. Every time you do you help to accomplish our mission.

Thank you. 

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

Walking Through Open Doors

Walking Through Open Doors

In I Kings 8, Solomon prays at the dedication of the temple. Verses 41–43 reflect Solomon’s understanding of  God’s purposes to bless all people. He prays,
Foreigners, who do not belong to your people Israel, will come from a distant land because of your reputation. When they hear about your great reputation and your ability to accomplish mighty deeds, they will come and direct their prayers toward this temple.

Then listen from your heavenly dwelling place and answer all the prayers of the foreigners. Then all the nations of the earth will acknowledge your reputation, obey you as your people Israel do, and recognize that this temple I built belongs to you. (

Remember that when Solomon was younger and had just become king, he prayed for discernment—literally “a hearing heart.” God answered, “I…give you a wise and discerning mind superior to that of anyone who has preceded or will succeed you.” (1 Kings 3:9 & 12)

Like Solomon, all those who follow Jesus must always, in every place, take opportunity to extend and reflect God’s great reputation and glorify Him.

Here is one example of ministry that demonstrates that heart:  An increasing number of mission organizations have located offices in Malaga, Spain. Many years ago, organizations came because the location was a great base for supporting work in North Africa. But it also made for easy communication with all time zones and was very convenient for travel to much of the world.

For similar reasons, businesses often locate their European HQ in this area, since it is less than a three-hour flight from most major cities of Europe and the cost of living is much lower than much of the rest of Europe.

Recently, new missions have moved into the area to engage the refugees as well as the local business, arts and government communities. A driving force for this is the refugee crisis, including the relocation of North African and Syrian refugees into Spain. Malaga is the main port of entry into the country for refugees. Italy, Greece and others have radically reduced the refugees they allow to come.

Four years ago, Christar International located its offices in a Business and Innovation Center (BIC) in Malaga. A BIC is a network of “centers” located throughout Europe that seek to help start-up/incubate businesses. They are happy to have Christar there because of their refugee work and the business experience and global connections of their staff.

More broadly, there is a push in the city/region to make Malaga a “hub” for technology for all of Spain and much of Europe. The Malaga BIC is situated in a large “tech park” where Accenture, Huawei, Ericsson, IBM and many others have a significant presence. The entire tech center has some 600 companies and some 17,000 employees.
Because of the pressure by the European Union (EU) on businesses (and individual countries) everyone is interested in effective projects that help integrate refugees effectively. There is great interest among well-known multi-national companies to deal with Europe’s practical issues with refugees.

Now, more than eight mission organizations, several smaller organizations and independent workers are engaged in various aspects of this migration opportunity.

Working with the BIC (the business world) the government (the EU) and three NGO partners, Christar staff help identify, assess and equip an entrepreneur in the immigrant community and incubate and accelerate his/her micro enterprise that will hire 10 unemployed immigrants. The process then will repeat and be used to create new local, regional and global enterprises that eliminate unemployment. Another program they use helps refugees navigate government and other systems in their newfound world.

Want to come and help? There is a need for business trainers and business mentors (some from a distance), digital media experts, web designers, trauma counselors (with refugee immigrants), administrators, grant writers, communication experts, legal advisors for start-ups in various countries…these and other skills are needed now. In some cases, language skills are necessary but not all. If you are interested in more info, email: [email protected] They will connect you with the partner that fits your interests.

Let’s pray that this kind of opportunity will be maximized for Jesus and His Kingdom.

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

The Rise and Fall of Movements:  A Roadmap for Leaders

Book Review by Dr. George G. Robinson

The Rise and Fall of Movements:  A Roadmap for Leaders

On the back cover of this latest release Addison describes a movement as “what God can do when you let go of control and multiply disciples and churches.” With just over 200 pages, the book is organized around eight chapters using what Addison identifies as “the lifecycle of a movement.” He summarizes his central premise, “at every stage of the movement lifecycle the way forward begins with returning to Jesus, the apostle and pioneer of our faith. His example is foundational. His leadership was centered on obedience to the living Word, dependence on the Holy Spirit, and faithfulness to His Mission.” (34) In his introduction Addison makes the point that all of human history is dotted with movements that, “for good or for ill,” have gone through common phases: birth, growth, maturity, decline, decay and in some cases, rebirth. (23)

Chapter one of the book, Why Movements Rise and Fall, sets the stage by highlighting what Addison has identified as “seven characteristics of multiplying movements.” These foundational characteristics are taken from Jesus’ example of how His identity was grounded in obedience to the Word, empowerment by the Spirit, and faithfulness to the Mission. Subsequently, strategy builds upon that identity and depends upon pioneering leaders, contagious relationships, rapid mobilization, and adaptive methods that are “simple, reproducible, sustainable and scalable.” 

Chapters two through seven are each devoted to a phase of the lifecycle and illustrated with a historical case study. Highlighting movements started by Francis of Assisi and his monastic order (Birth), John Wesley and the Methodist movement (Growth), George Fox and the Quakers (Maturity), the Roman Catholic Church in the Reformation Era (Decline), the rise of theological liberalism on the heels of the Modern Missionary Movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries (Decay), each emphasizing a different phase. The final phase follows the Moravians’ impact on the Reformation by providing somewhat of a re-birth that was built upon century long prayer and missions movement. Because each of Addison’s historical case studies go through the entire life cycle, they collectively serve as a potent reminder for us today as to what we must prioritize. For this reason, Addison chose to close his book with what he refers to as a “rebirthing” missionary movement among declining and decaying Western churches in our day. His case study for that chapter centers on the “No Place Left” movement that transcends organizations and denominations. This movement is emerging and catalyzing growth by its return to the seven characteristics highlighted earlier in the book. The Appendices include sample resources utilized by the “No Place Left” network that emphasize the foundational Identity that yields their Strategy and Methods.

The movement mentality that Addison advocates in Rise and Fall is not without its naysayers. As a seminary professor  and a proponent of reproducing disciple-making that leads to multiplying churches.  I constantly find myself in conversations with skeptics. Movements like those the author writes about tend to be explosive in their influence. This leads many to question them on the basis of a desire to insure that health isn’t sacrificed. While it istrue that humans grow when cells multiply, when those same cells multiply too quickly the diagnosis is cancer. As a reviewer I don’t want to flippantly dismiss what may be legitimate concerns about possible unhealthy outcomes when movements spread. At the same time, one must concede that the New Testament documents just such an explosive movement and doesn’t shy away from addressing the good, the bad and the ugly.

Like Addison seems to advocate, growth is never without risks, whether slow or rapid. What is really at stake isn’t health—it’s our own ability to control people. A movement mentality demands that we release authority and empower every disciple of Jesus to be a disciplemaker. And because we are dealing with fallen imagebearers, the results are sometimes disheartening. Yet I maintain, and I think Addison would agree, that messiness is inevitable. Thus, a large number of disciples yields more messes, but also more disciplers to address the mess! Rather than bottleneck the growth by making every decision gain the approval of a few professionals, Jesus unleashed “uneducated and ordinary men ” (and women!) who had spent time abiding with him. Peter made plenty of mistakes. His doctrine was way off at times (see Matt. 16:22-23); he had to be corrected for being prideful and ethnocentric (Acts 10:34-35); he was hot-headed (John 18:10); he was so fearful of man that he outright denied Jesus (Luke 22:34); and he was prone to discouragement, nearly dropping out altogether (John 21:3). Yet for all of his messiness, Jesus used him and a bunch of other ragamuffins to start a movement that sometimes looked more like Peter in his weaknesses than Jesus in his glory. And I for one am glad that Jesus is building his Kingdom out of “the least of these.”

Recently I invited Steve Addison to come and conduct a one-day symposium on this book at Southeastern  Seminary where I teach. Several things he said there stood out to me. First off, he reiterated that “movements rise because the Word does the work.” So while movements may be messy, they must be Word-focused. And that means that missionaries and pastors must sit under the Word in dependence alongside those we minister to, rather than stand over the Word as its guardians conveying that we alone can interpret and apply it properly. In both the book and in his presentation, Addison emphasized that movements are birthed when a sense of spiritual brokenness leads to desperate dependence upon hearing from God in the wilderness. Movement catalysts turn that desperation into action, which brings renewal and change even in the face of opposition. Movements really spread when the average follower feels empowered to innovate and advance the cause. This is the crucial point in which leaders’ protectionism can neuter the growth and lead to decline. Once the movement mindset is lost, those who advocate for renewal and change are often treated as enemies. This unfortunately leads to splinter groups forming new movements, while what they left behind slowly decays. Neither Addison, nor any of the movement catalysts that I know within the “No Place Left” network, desires to start anything new and disconnected. Rather, we are praying for and working towards “re-birth” by looking back at our Christian roots found in the New Testament. Addison profoundly stated, “Movements lower the bar on who can be a leader, but raise the bar on who can be a disciple.” That is precisely how both breadth and depth can be achieved..

I’ll conclude this brief review with a rationale for why Steve Addison’s newest book is so needed in such a time as this: “You need to know where you are on the lifecycle and align yourself with God’s purposes revealed in Jesus Christ. We know how Jesus founded and led an expanding missionary movement. We know how he dealt with declining and decaying religious institutions … We know how, throughout the biblical story, God renews his people in mission through his Word and the Holy Spirit.” (29) The Rise and Fall of Movements is a timely guide to help us self-diagnose and hopefully experience the grace of renewal and rebirth … until there’s “No Place Left” where whereJesus isn’t known and worshipped.



This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

Toward the Edges

What does Genesis 1–12 have to do with Movements?

Toward the Edges

In this edition of Mission Frontiers you will read about a large church that decided to redeploy itself around multiplying disciples for movements. As you know, disciples and movements are both major topics in MF on a consistent basis, and the story of such a church is a fitting and noteworthy focus of our attention.

I want to connect that to Scripture, in a perhaps surprising section of the Bible, and also to the frontiers of mission.

An Ear to the Edge

One of our core values in Frontier Ventures is to “live at the edges.” This can mean a variety of things, but one thing (at least) is that we want to listen to and learn from the men and women who are following Jesus at the edges of where the kingdom seems to be advancing among the least reached.

On a regular basis I have the privilege to sit with leaders of movements to Jesus which are growing among a number of Muslim people groups. The leaders themselves were all born Muslim and come from a variety of countries and contexts. Some of the movements are large and longstanding (one is now more than 40 years old, another more than 20), some much smaller and newer (one is perhaps two years since inception) and most of these movements are birthing or have birthed a number of other movements as well.

Each time we meet we select a “big chunk” of the Bible to study inductively together as a part of our mutual learning and encouragement. “Chunks” have included Nehemiah, Galatians, Luke (the whole book) and more. A year ago we selected Genesis 1:1 to 12:3.

An Ear at the Edge, Listening to Genesis

Here is a sketch of some of the themes that we discovered, but greatly abbreviated:

In Chapter 1 we learn that people are made in the image of God, and then blessed to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. This implies a spreading out and movement, a dispersal that is actually tied to the original blessing,

In chapter 9 we are reminded that humans are made in the image of God, and again are blessed to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. That theme is repeated as God, in a very real sense, begins again.

Then in chapter 10 we see a description of the process that involved as a record of clans and languages and families are actually filling the lands and nations. Not just a promise and a blessing but a description of the fact: filling the earth in keeping with the blessing of God we have read about. It was promised before, now we see it unfolding.

But, chapter 11 opens a new twist in the story. The tower of Babel is an opposition to the plan of God to multiply and fill the earth. In the Babel story we find the desire of humans, in opposition to God, to consolidate, centralize, make a name and control.

All of this sets the stage for Genesis 12:1-3, where we find God restoring the blessing and the decentralizing we saw in the original promises. After listing all the nations in Genesis 10 and the dispersing of the peoples in Genesis 11, Genesis 12 clarifies that His purpose was the blessing of all the families of the earth.

So, Genesis and Movements?                                                       

This reading of Genesis seems to suggest that a decentralized approach to extending the blessing to all

peoples is woven into the original plan. And that does, it seems to me, have implications for decisions about how we multiply disciples, including the strategic shift undertaken by the church described in this edition. 

Other Edges?

One of the ways Frontier Ventures is pressing our organizational ear to the edges  is the formation of “Hubs” including one that will launch in Asia in January 2020. The purpose of such FV Hubs is to redistribute our classic functions of collaboration, mobilization, training, and innovation closer to the edges of where the kingdom is moving into new peoples.

 An example of this, related to innovation, is the multiplication of transformation collaboratives, or what we call T. Co. Labs. This process involves intentionally connecting good strategic planning models, systems thinking, spiritual discernment and more in a collaborative process that brings together key leaders and thinkers from multiple organizations and disciplines around a “barrier.” 

In December, 2019 we did a T. Co. Lab in South Asia with a number of movement leaders and adapted the process for a cross-cultural, multilingual context. It was another effort at getting our ear closer to the edges. 

And a Quick Follow Up

I have mentioned in prior editions of MF that we are beginning to reconnect with the faithful partners who gave to the “Last Thousand Campaign” years ago (LTC). We have been cleaning up and integrating the older data (some of it still in paper form), and laying plans for a wider communication close to Thanksgiving (an appropriate season!).  

Some of our LTC partners asked us when they sent their gifts if we would re-designate those to another ministry, of their choosing, once we reached our goal. As we are able to identify such requests we are fulfilling them. We sent the first such fulfillment several weeks ago.

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

Interview with Pastor Chris Galanos of Experience Life

An Interview With Chris Galanos (CG) Questions Asked by Mission Frontiers (MF)

Interview with Pastor Chris Galanos of Experience Life

MF: How did you go about casting the vision for disciple-making to your church members?

CG: We started by introducing the concepts through two sermon series at our church. The first sermon series was called “Meltdown: The Decline of the American Church” and it was based on the book,  The Great Evangelical Recession by John Dickerson. In order to cast a compelling vision for disciple-making, you first need to establish that you’re either not doing it or not doing it very well. If people assume they’re already doing it well, casting vision for it is more difficult because they’re already convinced they’re doing what you’re casting vision for. This book by Dickerson does a great job looking at trends in the American church and calling out our lack of focus on disciple-making. I believe this series stirred our church to recognize that there was a problem and we needed to find a  solution. A few months later we did a sermon series on the solution to this problem. We called it “Miraculous Movements,” based on the popular book by that same name by Jerry Trousdale. We took several weeks to tell the stories of disciple-making in these movements in Africa. We introduced movements as the solution to the problem we discussed in the Meltdown series. Then a few months after that, on our 10 year anniversary, I shared with our church the prayer we felt led to pray for the next 10 years, namely that we’d see 1,000,000 disciples made through implementing a Disciple Making Movements (DMM) strategy. We’ve been pursuing this vision ever since. 

MF:  How difficult was it for your large body of church members to catch the vision for making disciples?

CG: I  think, generally speaking, people like the idea of growing as disciple-makers. If you ask a crowd on Sunday morning to raise their hands if they’d like to make more disciples, I bet you’d get a majority of people to raise their hands. But, when you start talking about the details of how to go about making disciples and what we’d need to do, the interest will usually begin to wane. Here are a few examples. In order to make disciples, we know we must go out among the lost and engage them. I’ve found that many Christians are not very interested in doing that. Another big part of making disciples is meeting together to pray and asking God to open hearts of lost people and give us boldness as we go out. I’ve found that many Christians are not very interested in doing that either. And there’s no question that a lifestyle of making disciples requires some big changes to our calendar. I’ve found that many Christians are very busy and aren’t interested, at this point, in making the changes necessary to create the time to make disciples.

As we began to cast vision for making disciples at our church, we had some people catch the vision and get excited and others that weren’t as interested. The ones that caught the vision went through a DMM training with us and many of them are now in DMM churches making disciples among the lost each week. Others loved coming on Sunday mornings but the idea of going out from the church building to make disciples in this way was probably not what they were looking for and, as a result they’ve moved on to other churches in our city.

MF: As you have relaunched eLife as a more missional form of doing church, talk about those who have come to join you.

CG:  In any church, there’s a small group of people that are hungry for more. They read the New Testament and they want to experience what they’re reading. They want to be a part of a Book-of-Acts-like movement in our day. When you start casting vision to people like that they get fired up and are excited to begin. I’d say a majority of people who have joined us  could be described that way. We could always tell they were the “radicals” in our church that were eager to be sent out to reach many for Jesus. MF:  Share some statistics for the glory of God. Where are you today in the number of people who have gone through trainings? How many people have been baptized, churches birthed and so on?  

CG: W e feel like we’re still just getting started, but we’ve seen God do some amazing things over the last year and a half.

We’ve taken 474 people through our DMM training, many of whom were pastors and church leaders. Quite a few of these churches that went through the training have decided to join us on the journey toward catalyzing movements in America.

We’ve seen God start 15 “Generation 0” DMM churches. These are churches of believers that have been planted by our church or through our training and who are seeking to start Generation 1 churches among the lost. One of these Generation 0 DMM churches has seen a Generation 1 church started from these efforts.

11 more Generation 0 DMM churches are in formation.

We’ve started 161 Discovery Groups with lost people. 40 of these DGs are still active (DGs becoming inactive is a common pattern in DMM – along the lines of the 4 soils parable). Of these 161 DGs, we have had one stream reach 4th Generation and several other streams reach 2nd Generation.

We’ve had more than 5,200 spiritual conversations (likely more, this is just the number we’ve tracked).

We’ve had more than 2,600 hours of corporate prayer (likely more, this is just the number we’ve tracked).

We’ve had right around 90 half-night prayer meetings (four-five hours of prayer through the night).

We’ve sent 11 long-term workers to Thailand with six of them still actively serving there with us. They are working toward catalyzing movements while we’re working to mobilize many more to join them long-term. The vision we cast to our church about five years ago is that we wanted to send a tithe of our church to the nations which was 500 people at that time. We are still praying to send 500 to the nations long-term and feel they will be much better equipped to catalyze disciplemaking movements overseas because they will have been working toward it in America before they leave.

MF: What has been the most difficult part for your members to learn to make disciples?

CG: I  think the most difficult part for all of us is that we’re accustomed to a typical American Christian’s schedule and that usually doesn’t include much time for making disciples. We’re busy doing many other things. We’ve all realized that if we want to be effective in making disciples, it will require an overhaul of our lives and how/where we spend our time. Like most Christians, we realize we spend most of our time around saved people, but we recognize we can’t be effective in making disciples until we spend a lot more time strategically around lost people. We’ve been talking a lot about starting over with our schedules. We want to put disciple-making on the calendar first since it’s most important and then schedule other activities around that. If we put all of our activities on the schedule and see if there’s room for disciple-making, there usually isn’t. Instead, we’ve said it’s best to just start from scratch and put the most important things on the calendar first. This mindset has been a huge help, but it will also require sacrifice. Many of us realize we’re going to have to stop doing some things we enjoy in order to make room for things we enjoy more, like making disciples.

MF:  What was it that surprised you in this whole process of transition and relaunch?

CG: I  think what surprised us the most is how much impact a few devoted disciples can have. In our heyday as a church, we’d have 100-200 first-time guests come per weekend, many of whom were lost. It took a megachurch staff, budget, and resources to draw this many people in and what I realized in the transition is that one DMM church alone, with no budget, buildings or resources, can share with about this many lost people all by themselves in a week fairly easily. Multiply that over our 26 churches and I believe our impact already is far greater than our megachurch could’ve ever had. When you start going to the lost rather than expecting them to come to you, you can engage with a lot more people. That probably shouldn’t have been a surprise, but the American church model is based on doing whatever it takes to get lost people to come to church. What pastors realize after a while is most lost people aren’t interested in coming to church. So, if you’re going to reach them, you’re going to have to leave the church and go to them. This realization alone has helped us see how 1,000,000 could truly be reached.

MF:  What has been most “costly” to you and your church in making the switch? How has it been worth it?

CG:  I think the most difficult part of a journey like this is persevering even when everyone thinks you’re crazy - haha! When we first started Experience Life 12 years ago, people thought we were crazy in how we were doing church. I was 25 years old and people weren’t sure I could be a senior pastor at my age. We met in a skating rink and people weren’t sure how church could actually happen outside a church building. The list went on of things people thought were crazy. It took a while for people to understand what we were doing and to see the impact it was making. I feel, in some ways, we are back at that stage since we’re choosing to do “church” in a different way again. I’m sure many think we’re crazy, but we’re doing our best to make sure we’re listening to Jesus and staying focused on what He wants us to do. We want to follow Him regardless of the cost or how crazy it may seem to others!

MF:  What suggestions would you have for any other church that wants to start doing DMM?

CG: You need a coach! I can’t recommend anything more strongly than that. Stan Parks was our primary coach and we probably would’ve given up early in the process if it hadn’t been for his wisdom, guidance and coaching. Movements are truly a “foreign” concept in the US and you shouldn’t trust that you can navigate trying to catalyze one on your own. We need to be trained and coached by men and women who have seen these happen in other parts of the world and can help us make sure we understand the overarching principles so we can apply them effectively in our context.

MF:  What are some must-reads to help those who want to learn DMM and apply it in their own church?

CG:  These are the must-reads that I list in my book:

  • The Great Evangelical Recession (John Dickerson)
  • Miraculous Movements (Jerry Trousdale)
  • Spent Matches (Roy Moran)
  • Church Planting Movements (David Garrison)
  • The Kingdom Unleashed (Jerry Trousdale)

Also, if you’re an American pastor, you should read Francis Chan’s new book, Letters to the Church. It’s not about DMM, but it’s about the status of the American church and it helps you to recognize that we must begin looking for a solution. The DMM books will give you the solution.

MF: T alk about how you have empowered the kids in your body to do DMM. Do you have a short story?

CG:  Students have loved applying DMM. Here is a recent story of God using an unlikely young person to do something extraordinary. First, let me give you a little background.

As we’ve been leveraging every area at our church for DMM, our youth pastors also made changes in our youth ministry. One of the things they’ve done is begin to expose the students to movement principles and cast vision to them for reaching the 40,000 students in the area. They use the DBS process in their small groups. They’ll often spend their corporate gatherings sharing testimonies and praying or going out on prayer walks rather than doing an attractional service like they’ve done in the past. They’ve been casting vision to the students that God can use them to make disciples and plant churches. They’ve been encouraging them to start groups at their schools. They even have what they call a “catalyst group” which is a group of students that they have taken through the DMM training and are deploying in schools. It’s been amazing to watch! Recently a teacher at one of those schools sent me a message on Facebook. This is what she said:

Hey Chris! I wanted to share with you that one of my 7th grade students who is in the eLife youth group has started a Bible study in my room before school one day a week. He is a quiet young man who doesn’t fit in socially (and seems to be fine with it). I was amazed as I listened to him read a portion of Scripture and say, “We are going to talk about what this says about God, what this says about people, and who we would share this with if we had the opportunity.” He then went on to say that that is what they do in his youth group and that he had been encouraged by his youth leader to start that group. Wanted you to be able to share this with your staff. Good stuff!

Wow! A 7th grader starting groups!

Notice how the teacher described him. “A quiet young man that doesn’t fit in socially.” Sounds like just the type of unlikely person God would use to catalyze a movement! Can you even imagine the boldness it takes for a student like this to start a group with friends at school? That only happens if God fills you with his Spirit and you’re on fire for him!

God loves to use unlikely people!

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

ZÚME Update

ZÚME Update

Here’s a report from the frontlines on the Zúme Project. As you read this, we’ll be going into year three of this mission to train reproducing disciples and planting multiplying churches around the world through free online training designed for “non-professionals” and delivered in the languages of the nations. As we write this, we’re about two and a half years post-launch.

In these beginning years God has been more than faithful at every step. So many good things have taken place that we have already lost count. We have seen the product launch, early adopters, first non-English languages launched, and first trainings held. We have seen first disciples multiplying, first churches planted, heroic programmers, faithful donors. We have an all-volunteer global team that has, somehow, been able to meet face-toface multiple times each year and by video almost every week since launch.

Through it all, God has also been faithful in every valley. And there have been lows. We have missed deadlines, re-structured our curriculum, and re-platformed our product (twice!). We have struggled delivering features we consider core to the mission, put work on hold as we waited for funding, put languages on hold (sometimes for years) as we waited on translations, and felt discouraged at difficulties in identifying language “champions” to help spread the training after launching those languages.

We have changed a key leadership role at least four times, shuffled seats as we tried to (re)discover our competencies and giftings, had effective leaders step off the team, and lost at least one beloved colaborer when God called him home far earlier then we were ready to let him go.


In the United States our target is one training and two simple churches planted for every geographical area of approximately 5,000 people. By the most conservative measures that’s 65,000 trainings and 130,000 churches. Globally, our target is one training and two simple churches for every area of approximately 50,000 people. This means at least 140,000 trainings and 280,000 churches.

We are still trying to develop the ability to track the churches planted. Since transitioning to our third iteration of our platform, we have had 1,522 registered training groups with participants from 105 countries who have logged over 40,000 training hours. We are still seeking for ways to track the many offline training events that    don’t report. As of this writing there are fifteen languages completed and we are halfway to our goal of thirty          languages we expect to be completed by the end of 2019. Another ten languages should be added in 2020. Clearly this progress is just a drop in the bucket toward our overall goals, but we are excited at some major upgrades that are coming soon and will allow us to greatly accelerate our progress.

But here are some of the very good things we’ve seen on the way:

In early 2018 I first heard about Zúme.

It had been a long time since college Greek class, but I was intrigued by the name even though I had forgotten what it meant. I registered on the Zúme site and within an hour I had a call from Jordan Valdere, a Zúme coach. That half hour call was a game changer for my ministry, my church and my future. Jordan flew out to Maryland a couple months later and led a two day Zúme workshop for about 14 of our leaders. In each heart, something was sparked. A fresh desire to actually make disciples rather than simply do church ministry was restored. Following that May workshop, I began teaching Zúme across the mid-Atlantic to interested churches. Large group training was hosted at churches ranging in size from 30-1300. Over 1000 people were trained in the next 8 months. We looked for those who applied the tools and discipled them further. Groups by the dozens were birthed. People came to Christ. Baptisms   surged in congregations that had seen few baptized in recent years. The gospel took root in places once feared to enter. God’s Kingdom expanded in several hot spots where obedience flourished. And a buzz began to be heard that lay people could actually be trusted to lead a movement that truly moves. One local church pastor in Maryland almost lost his job because of his pursuing of Zúme. A battle erupted over his constant talk about reaching lost people. It unsettled content church people who merely wanted to “be preached happy” but wanted nothing to do with impacting lostness. A critical meeting was held where only one group would be left standing. Yet all day, the Prayer Cycle (Lesson Two) was prayed through and when the meeting was held that evening repentance came, tears flowed down once hardened faces and today that church is growing by reaching into the harvest. A church in Florida down to 22 senior adults went through Zúme(21 showed up for training) and today those seniors are out sharing Jesus, discipling people and seeing revitalization break out in their church family. A Maryland church frustrated over stagnant evangelism has adopted Zúme as their primary ministry and as of this writing over 250 of its 500 attendees have been trained in Zúme. Groups are forming in hard places, baptisms have increased and a fresh joy has permeated the church as new believers become a part of the family of God. Zúme has radically moved individuals and churches to do the last command of Jesus, “Go...make disciples....” Our goal now is to train 10,000 people in the next decade to live as disciple-makers. Multiplication is the flag we wave. Making heaven fuller and hell far less full is our passion. We are grateful for Zúme coming to us in the Mid-Atlantic 18 months ago. We are “all in” for a multiplying movement that like a pebble in the pond ripples across our nation. —Ron Larson Pastor, The Crossing


In places like Louisville and the state of Maryland there are efforts gaining traction to saturate geographic areas.

AFRICA—When one of our team was headed out on an outreach to Somalis in Africa, he was up against some of the toughest security situations for ministry on the planet. He utilized SD cards with the version of Zúme that we are preparing for the mobile app to make training accessible to some local believers. The result was a number of new churches and dozens of baptisms among Somalis within a very short time frame.

NORTH AFRICA—A team in North Africa has been laboring diligently for many years and has been frustrated by the lack of fruit. Since introducing Zúme to the small local community of followers of Jesus, they have been amazed by how quickly those local believers are owning the vision and work of multiplying the gospel through their country.

In addition to geographic breakthroughs we are seeing progress in high schools, prisons, and other settings. Many times these are not recorded in our system, but we frequently hear about people using the site in their ministries.

Finally, a number of people have been finding Zúme useful to reinforce and retrain people who have previously had training in multiplicative ministry approaches. It has also helped people quickly become comfortable in training others as they use the site as “training wheels” to assist them until they become comfortable enough to train people without it.


Our goal has always been accessibility. It’s the key reason the training is unbranded, multi-language, and distributed online to groups, trainers, missional agencies, and churches at no charge. But accessibility often means being willing to go in a different direction than we originally planned. Here are some of the key initiatives we’re currently working on and some of the ways God is stretching us most to share training with more people in more places:

Zúme Mobile App—One of the biggest challenges we face delivering an online training product is that the trainers and trainees we are targeting are often in areas with little or inconsistent online access. We’re investing heavily in a Zúme mobile app that will allow those we serve to download our free training materials to their mobile device and deliver it wherever they go, regardless of signal strength or cost of service.

SD Cards—This approach is what was described above in the work in Somalia. It has served as a proof of concept for the Zúme mobile app as well.

YouVersion—The same innovative leader that worked in Somalia has pushed for more and greater delivery channels from the very beginning. Recently, he reached out to YouVersion to see if they would be willing to host and distribute some Zúme-themed Bible studies to help build awareness of multiplication and available training. This single channel has quickly resulted in more than 16,000 individuals subscribing to Zúme reading plans. These don’t show up in our statistics but we believe they will soon result in wider awareness and usage of Zúme.

Zúme Pieces / Gamification—Since launch, we’ve had numerous requests for access to individual topics in our training (Person of Peace, Prayer Walking, Duckling Discipleship, etc.). Because we view the curriculum as a whole system of discipleship development, we were very reluctant to break it apart and share it out piecemeal. The requests kept coming, so our leadership team kept exploring the possibilities. By the time you read this, most (or all) of the individual Zúme training topics will be available for direct access and sharing. We’re working hard to ensure that our platform and delivery encourages users to explore more and more topics until they are fully trained (what technologists call “gamification”).

Zúme Playbook—We are in the process of creating the Zúme Playbook, a compilation of how faithful practitioners have actually modified and delivered Zúme training successfully and fruitfully in the field. Each “play” consists of a brief overview and description of the intended targets for discipleship (students, prisoners, traditional church members, etc.) and then a detailed plan-of-action for how others can follow these steps to share training in this way. As a team, we never could have come up with all of the variety and creativity that these plays represent, but it’s a relatively simple task to assemble and share them so they can multiply.

Additional Website—Finally, we are preparing to launch a companion site to the training site in 2020. The current site will be accessible at the current URL (Zú or at http://www.Zúme.Training The n.ew site will be http://www.Zúme.Vision It wi.ll host the playbook mentioned above as well as interactive maps which will help people track the progress toward the saturation goals in their town, county/district, state/province, and country. It will also house coaching functions and specialized communities of practice.

LEADERSHIP—- Our plan has always been to make this work a completely free resource not owned or controlled by any organization but also 100% voluntary in terms of those who would serve and lead. Along the way, we’ve had paid vendors who have built and delivered key elements, and we’re grateful for their (often discounted) professional and faithful work. But our core team has always been unpaid volunteers who travel and work at their own expense. Some of our team are supportraised missionaries serving in the field. Some are staff at local churches. Others are involved in “marketplace ministry.” All volunteer by carving out time from other important and fruitful projects. God has created this ministry from the margin, and we are thankful.

We are always looking for other faithful workers to join us. Maybe you’re one of them. If some of what you’ve read above has resonated with you, we encourage you to read through our Vision, Mission, and Values statements below and then visit Zú to explore more of the training and our mission.

If, after prayer and consideration, you’re still interested in learning how you can join this effort to multiply disciples everywhere, just drop us a line and share your heart at [email protected]ú

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (72 months)

Can We Hasten the Lord’s Return? Clarifying Some Misunderstandings about 24:14

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (72 months)

People around the world are excited about the 24:14  Coalition.1 Leaders and catalysts of movements across the globe have begun working together to identify unreached people groups (UPGs) and places. Fresh efforts are developing to bring gospel witness among those peoples and places. But while some rejoice, others protest, seeing 24:14 as a shallow bandwagon—long on zeal and short on missiological depth. In weighing the apprehensions, both scholarly and popular, it appears many of the concerns arise from misunderstandings. In this article, I hope to clarify some that recently appeared in print.

Clarification #1: The 24:14 Coalition has never set a date by which we expect (or are predicting) the Lord will return.

In the most recent issue of Themelios journal, C. J. Moore2  implies that the 24:14 Coalition has launched a countdown to the date of Christ’s return. He writes: “A modern example of the eschatological motivation for missions is being developed in the Mission Frontiers magazine, through their3 24:14 Coalition based on Matthew 24:14. They include a new countdown, as seen in the title of the January/February issue of 2018: ‘Are You In? 24:14: The Coalition to Foster Movements in All Peoples by 2025.’”4 He later comments: “man should not believe that he can expect or suspect when this day will come (e.g. the year 2000 or 2025).”5

We anticipated this concern and penned a clarification in the lead article of that same issue of Mission Frontiers.

In “24:14—The War that Finally Ends,” Stan Parks and Steve Smith stated: “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.”

For the sake of any who might have missed or misunderstood this, a year later, in the January-February 2019 issue of Mission Frontiers, Tim Martin and Stan Parks penned this among their answers to FAQ:

Are you setting 2025 as the year that all nations will be reached?

No, our goal is to engage every unreached people and place with an effective kingdom movement strategy by December 31, 2025. This means that a team (local or expat or combination) equipped in movement strategy will be on location in every unreached people and place. We make no claims about when the Great Commission task will be finished. That is God’s responsibility. He determines the fruitfulness of movements.6

We hope that by once again publishing these clarifications, we can diminish misunderstanding.

In the same article, Moore also claimed: “many who hold to this view [eschatological motivation for missions] believe that once they complete the task of world evangelization, Christ will immediately come back, as will be examined in the next section. In other words, all He is waiting on is us.”7 And, “those with this motivation have often been proponents of ‘countdowns’ to the completion of world evangelization, which to this day, have proven unsuccessful.”8 Such claims do not match anything written by the 24:14 Coalition. Predicting when Jesus will return is not in any way the purpose of 24:14. Rather, it is a call to action for God’s people.

Clarification #2: We believe 2 Peter 3:12a is best translated as “hastening” the day.

In context, the verse reads: “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 Pet. 3:1112a, ESV). All other New Testament uses of any form of the Greek word speudō9 clearly intend the concept of hastening (and are consistently translated as such in those places). The other possible meaning of speudō (“to desire earnestly”) is only cited from non-biblical sources.10 All major Bible translations11 translate speudontas in 2 Peter 3:12 as “speed” or “hastening.” The context of this verse also clearly grapples in numerous ways with the issue of timing. Verse 4 quotes an accusation that while time goes on, God is not fulfilling the promise of his coming. Verse 8 clarifies that God’s timetable is different than ours. Verse 9 explicitly states: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise” (NIV, emphasis added).

Numerous commentators accept and expound on speudontas in this verse as meaning “hasten.” I will cite just three. Michael Green12 writes:

Wonderful as it may seem, we can actually “hasten it on” (NEB)….In other words, the timing of the advent is to some extent dependent upon the state of the church and of society. What a wonderfully positive conception of our time on earth…. It is intended to be a time of active cooperation with God in the redemption of society…. Evangelism is one way in which we can be said to hasten the coming of the Lord (cf. Mark 13:10).

Dick Lucas & Christopher Green write: “The Old  Testament prophecies of the hastening of God’s return (e.g. Isa. 62.11) have a new force following the first coming of Jesus, and Jesus underlined that it is within the control of God either to shorten or to lengthen that interim period as he sovereignly wills.” (Mark 13:20; Luke 13:6-9)”13

Edwin Blum14 writes: “But how can Christians hasten what God will do? Peter would probably answer by saying that prayer (Matt. 6:10) and preaching (Matt 24:14) are two principal means to bring people to repentance.”

As these commentators have noted, the concept of hastening the day of Christ’s return fits well with other Scriptures and serves also as a wonderful and appropriate motivator to passionate godliness and ministry. Attempts to avoid this more likely meaning of 2 Peter 3:12 fall short of credibility.

Clarification #3: The concept of hastening the day is entirely compatible with God’s sovereignty.

As reflected in the title of D.A. Carson’s book     Divine    Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension, these two factors fit together in a marvelous way. This age-old tension, portrayed throughout Scripture, impacts our understanding and our action, especially in matters of prayer, evangelism and missions. In each of these realms, the role of human action vis-à-vis the will of a sovereign God work together in mysterious ways that defy simple human analysis. As Carson writes: “It seems to me that most (although not all) of the debate can be analyzed in terms of the tendency toward reductionism...attempts to resolve the tension may only serve to distort the balance which the Bible preserves in its treatment of the tension.”15

Moore’s article “Can We Hasten the Parousia?” claims that “since there is no date revealed to man concerning when Christ will come back, then any talk of quickening or hastening that coming is nonsensical.”16 He also states, “the notion that we might ‘hasten’ a day that the Lord is sovereign over is somewhat absurd. God, in his omniscience, knows when the Parousia will be; that day will not change. Man cannot surprise God with efforts that supposedly quicken a day that is already set. As well, man should not believe that he can expect or suspect when this day will come (e.g. the year 2000 or 2025). It will certainly be a surprising day for all of mankind. Moreover, to believe that the Parousia can actually be “hastened” might logically lead to the heresy of open theism (though one could argue that this is the extreme, logical conclusion).”17 This claim seems to reflect a shallow understanding of the interplay between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Objections of this sort are answered not only in Carson’s book but also in J.I Packer’s classic: Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God, in which he writes: “The belief that God is sovereign does not affect the urgency of evangelism.”18

Hundreds of years before Carson and Packer expounded this mystery, Jonathan Edwards described it extensively. He employed the phrase “use of means” countless times in his careful and detailed descriptions of the mysterious interplay between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. For example, in Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God he wrote: “It is surely no argument that an effect is not from God, that means are used in producing it; for we know that it is God’s manner to make use of means in carrying on His work in the world.”19

John Piper and Justin Taylor note that “Edwards’… more general emphasis on a proper use of means is reiterated by many other Puritans.”20 Clearly, the theme of human means accomplishing what God has sovereignly decreed has a long history among Reformed and other Protestant writers. Sadly, the abuse of God’s sovereignty as an argument against earnest human effort in missions also has a long history. John Ryland Sr., the chairman of William Carey’s Baptist denomination, enunciated it most notably in 1787 by when he replied, “Sit down young man. You are an enthusiast! When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without consulting you or me.”21 The charge of shallow “enthusiasm” still lingers, aimed at those passionately pursuing the reaching of all ethnē. Yet we best honor God’s sovereignty by earnestly using all means He has given us to disciple all nations.

Clarification #4: Hastening the Lord’s return is just one among many biblical motivations for ministry among those who believe in it.

Moore claims “proponents of the eschatological motivation not only believe they can quicken the coming of Christ, but they also have this primarily in mind with regard to their work. Therefore, they often do whatever possible to achieve this end, which leads to missional malpractice” (emphasis added).22 Contrary to his claim to know others’ minds, he misrepresents the intent and actions of these fellow believers. To the best of my knowledge, every missiologist, missionary and biblical scholar who believes mission activity can hasten the Lord’s return holds that belief as one among many noble motivations for ministry. Other commonly mentioned motivations would include God’s glory (e.g. Ps. 86:9), salvation made known to all nations (e.g. Ps. 67:2), obedience to Jesus’ final command (Matt. 28:18-19); love for the lost (e.g. 1 John 4:19), bringing reconciliation (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:18-20) and preparing Christ’s bride for his wedding feast (Rev. 19:7). We have a wealth of noble motivations for proclaiming the good news.

Clarification #5: Believing that mission activity can hasten the day increases missional diligence, not missional malpractice.

To note just one example of increased effectiveness: since the 24:14 Coalition began only two and a half years ago, greater mutual trust has yielded better collaboration among agencies and better understanding of gaps in engagement among UPGs. These in turn have already led to fresh sending efforts among dozens of UPGs.

The allegation has been made: “the eschatological motivation for missions has often led to practices that are outright dangerous.”23 Also, “In particular, the countdown itself has led to malpractice; because certain workers want to complete the Great Commission by a certain date, they often do whatever works to maximize the number of converts.” This accusation is buttressed with a quote from the Perspectives reader: “Peter Wagner has even stated that ‘setting goals for world evangelization … requires a degree of pragmatism.’” He goes on to say that workers need to stop or change what they are doing if people are not substantially coming to Christ.”25 But what Wagner actually wrote conveyed more nuance and wisdom: “If we are investing resources of time, personnel and money in programs which are supposed to make disciples but are not, we need to reconsider them and be willing to change the program if needed” (emphasis added).

Moore presents Jim Montgomery and the DAWN effort as a Case Study of “The Danger of the Eschatological Motivation for Missions.” “Montgomery … had the year 2000 in mind and went well on his way to pragmatism: ‘Unless [workers] are armed with a vision of multiplying churches, they can easily fall into the trap of using familiar methodologies that produce little or no growth when other methods might produce a great harvest.’ Montgomery and others like him assume that if a methodology is not producing immediate and quantifiable results, then it should be disregarded.”27

Granted that Montgomery’s insight could be misapplied, we need to ask: “Is there  in fact a missiological danger of “using familiar methodologies that produce little or no growth when other methods might produce a great harvest”? Based on over two decades of missionary experience, I would say “Yes, absolutely!” But Montgomery’s potentially helpful insight is then twisted by the addition of interpretive words: “immediate and quantifiable results.” I know of no CPM methodology claiming “immediate and quantifiable results.” In fact, numerous CPM trainers use the pithy “Go slow to go fast” to counsel slow and careful laying of the foundation for a hoped-for movement. Back in 2013 Ted Esler wrote: “A critique of CPM has been that it is all about speed. This is actually not a fair assessment because the original stages, as put forth in the theory, are slow-growth stages and large-scale growth does not occur until later on.”28 It appears the danger here lies more in the critic’s misunderstanding than in the methods being criticized.

After admitting that “the overall goal behind this [DAWN] strategy is sound,”29 Moore claims to know Montgomery’s (problematic) thoughts better than Montgomery himself. [Montgomery] “often claims he did not mean the goal had to be completed by 2000, but it seems apparent that he had this in mind” (emphasis added).30 We prefer to honor our brothers’ and sisters’ expressed intentions rather than publicly accusing them based on attempted mind-reading of their true intentions. The next paragraph after that quote presents good questions about the fruit of the DAWN efforts (i.e. “Were these churches really healthy?”). But no evidence of answers is offered, one way or the other. The questions function as innuendo, followed by a speculative negative conclusion: “Not to mention, Montgomery may have been misguided by his interpretation of certain passages” (emphasis added).31 Yet no evidence at all is offered of any misguidance or misinterpretation.

Moore admits that noted missiologist David Hesselgrave “stated there was no harm in setting [the year 2000 as a] specific goal.” Yet Moore continues, “However, this traditional understanding of the eschatological motivation for missions has, again, often led to pragmatic methods that should have been avoided.”33 The prime example cited of this egregious behavior might surprise many: A.B. Simpson and his legacy (the founding of the Christian Missionary Alliance). His main complaint with A.B. Simpson’s approach was that he “rushed church planting with a notable lack of reverence for biblical ecclesiology. Rather than ‘adopting complex doctrinal formulations that polarize,’ Simpson sought to start churches ‘with a few distinctive points about Christ on which many [would] readily concur.’”34 This leads to the indefensible claim that “Simpson essentially promoted unity without truth” (emphasis added).35 Simpson is also criticized for sending mission recruits to a Bible college, in order to more quickly get mission candidates to the field, “foregoing the more traditional model of seminary education.”36 Readers can decide for themselves whether the 130+ years of global ministry by the Christian Missionary Alliance constitutes missional malpractice.

Other cases of “Eschatological Motivation for Mission” cited include the AD 2000 movement. Related quotes include: “The attendees of the Lausanne II Congress on World Evangelization, an ecumenical movement for reaching the whole world with the gospel, affirmed the following together: ‘There is nothing magical about the date [2000], yet should we not do our best to reach this goal? Christ commands us to take the gospel to all peoples.’” It appears any mention of dates or goal setting can become fodder for criticism, even when those are explicitly not directly tied to claims of Christ’s return.

Other than this questionable criticism of the Christian Missionary Alliance, the only other example cited in “Can We Hasten the Parousia?” which sounds at all like “missional malpractice” comes from the nineteenth century: shallow conversion of Jews by a group called LSPCJ. Over 100 years have passed since the events described (by a secondary source). A representative of CMJ (The Church’s Ministry among Jewish People—the current name of the former LSPCJ) comments37 on this characterization: “CMJ…does not adopt any one particular eschatological framework” and the article cited “fails to give any evidence as far as I can see to support such a strong and critical view.”

So in spite of repeated claims that eschatological motivation for mission results in missional malpractice, the case seems to consist mainly of innuendo, a dubious 100+-year-old example, a claim of mind-reading someone who died 13 years ago, and an attack on one particular denominational founder of over 100 years ago. Missiological malpractice does exist today, but “Can We Hasten the Parousia?” fails to identify any current cases, much less to substantiate repeated accusations against those believing their efforts can “hasten the day.”

Clarification #6: Gospel proclamation becomes more fruitful with awareness of diversity of contexts.

The Apostle Paul described his diverse approaches to different groups, specifying Jews and Gentiles: “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible….I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:19, 22b, NIV). His diverse methods of gospel proclamation among different groups are well illustrated in Acts 13, 14 and 17. Those aiming for maximum cross-cultural fruitfulness study and apply Paul’s contextual principles and examples.

Moore, in contrast, offers this simplistic suggestion: “What if the method is simply the proclamation of the gospel, ordained by God as the primary means to salvation (Rom. 1:16)? Should this, then, be changed?”38 Not only the biblical texts of 1 Corinthians and Acts, but also the history and present case studies of missions show clearly that not all methods of proclamation are equally fruitful. No method guarantees fruit, as the harvest belongs to the Lord and salvation is a work of his Spirit. Yet a methodological recommendation of “simply the proclamation of the gospel” invites missiological ignorance and counterproductive efforts. Countless examples could be cited, along the lines of this video: “Preaching outside largest market in Indonesia” https://


The way of wise missiology follows the Psalmist’s path of acknowledging and learning from the glorious works of our mighty God. “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them” (Ps. 111:2, NIV). By considering the Lord’s great works in bringing many to salvation through movements, we can glean much. We can learn not only about God’s mighty power at work today, but also about various proclamation approaches that have been more (or less) helpful in various contexts.

The same scholar claims: “There is no way for mankind to know what God considers ‘reached’ and what he considers ‘unreached.’” The Apostle Paul disagreed. He wrote:

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20, NIV). For our current application of this verse, we can easily distinguish (for starters) between those individuals who have made a credible profession of saving faith and those groups who, to the best of our knowledge, have no known believers and no known gospel witness. We need not be tightly bound by estimates of 1%, 2%, 5%, etc. But if we are serious about the gospel being proclaimed to “every tribe and language and people and nation” we rightfully distinguish between those who have already heard and those who have never heard. A small strategic step further asks who has abundant opportunities to hear and who has very few. This constitutes responsible stewardship toward completing the commission Jesus has given us—to make disciples of all nations.


Can we hasten the Lord’s return? Responsible exegesis leans toward a positive answer, while no one we know of in the 24:14 Coalition claims a specific date for that return. Mission effort is not the only factor in God’s sovereign determination of the end of this age, but it’s clearly a relevant factor—and the only one over which we have any control. We choose— and invite others to join us in—diligent and responsible collaboration and mission effort to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, as soon as possible to as many as possible. May God be glorified through these endeavors.

  1. 1 24:14 is an open-membership community committed to four things:
    1. Fully reaching the UNREACHED peoples and places of the earth
    2. Reaching them through CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT strategies
    3. Engaging them through movement strategies with URGENT SACRIFICE by 2025
    4. COLLABORATING with others in the 24:14 movement so we can make progress together.
    For more information about this Coalition, see

  2. 2  In his article, “Can We Hasten the Parousia? An Examination of Matt 24:14 and Its Implications for Missional Practice,” Themelios 44.2 (2019), 291–311

  3. 3 Contrary to Moore’s use of “their,” the 24:14 Coalition neither was started by nor is owned by Mission Frontiers. MF simply makes its readers aware of this coalition.

  4. 4 Ibid, 295

  5. 5 Ibid, 310

  6. 6 In “24:14 FAQ: Clarifying Some Misconceptions,” 38-40. Both these articles are now included as chapters in the book 24:14—A Testimony among All Peoples, edited by Stan Parks and Dave Coles

  7. 7 Ibid, 293 

  8. 8 Ibid, 293 

  9. 9 Luke 2:16; 19:5, 6; Acts 20:16; 22:18

  10. 10 Some sources, such as Strong’s Concordance and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, list Isaiah 16:5 (LXX) as an example of the meaning “to desire earnestly.” However, the meaning “hastening” is preferred there—not only by The Septuagint Version: Greek and English, by Sir Lancelot Brenton (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 851; but also by modern Bible translations, such as ESV, NIV, NRSV, NKJV, and MSG


  12. 12 In The Second Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, 153

  13. 13 In The Message of 2 Peter & Jude the Promise of his Coming, Downers Grove: IV Press 1995, 146

  14. 14 In “2 Peter,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol 12, 287

  15. 15  Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension, (Atlanta, John Knox Press, 1981), 220, 221

  16. 16 Ibid, 309

  17. 17 Ibid, 310

  18. 18 Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1961), 98

  19. 19 In The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol 2. (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1986) p. 263

  20. 20 In A God Entranced Vision of All Things:  The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, (Wheaton, Crossway Books, 2004), 242

  21. 21 “William Carey: A Baptist Page Portrait” acces,sed 9/4/2019

  22. 22 Moore, ibid, 292 

  23. 23 Ibid, 292 

  24. 24 Ibid, 293

  25. 25 Ibid, 292-293

  26. 26 “On the Cutting Edge of Mission Strategy,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 4th Ed., ed. Ralph D. Winter (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), 578

  27. 27 Ibid, 293

  28. 28 “Coming to Terms: Two Church Planting Paradigms,” International Journal of Frontier
    Missiology, 30:2 Summer 2013, 71

  29. 29 Ibid, 293

  30. 30 Ibid, 294

  31. 31 Ibid, 294

  32. 32 Ibid, 295

  33. 33 Ibid, 295

  34. 34 Ibid, 295

  35. 35 Ibid, 296

  36. 36 In private email correspondence dated August 21, 2019

  37. 37  “Coming to Terms: Two Church Planting Paradigms,” International Journal of Frontier Missiology, 30:2 Summer 2013, 71

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

From Big to Small— for a Big Movement

From Big to Small— for a Big Movement

If you were to walk into our church during the first 10 years and then walk in now, you’d probably feel as if you’d entered two totally different churches. And you’d be right.

The focus of this story played out in my book, From Megachurch to Multiplication. This is a story about our church’s journey from being one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States to a church now focused primarily on catalyzing movements.

At our first meeting, we had 12 in our living room. We prayed that the Lord would allow us to help 10,000 people commit their lives to Christ in 10 years. On our 10 year anniversary in September of 2017, we celebrated 13,337 people who indicated they had committed their lives to Christ and 6,756 who had been baptized.

During year eight, I started asking the Lord, What do you want our vision to be for the next 10 years?

That’s when I stumbled upon WIGTake.

As I was reading David Garrison’s book Church Planting Movements: How God Is Redeeming a Lost World, these two sentences leaped off the page at me. “In the years that followed, Langston was joined by Calvin and Margaret Fox. Together they planned what it would take to reach all of the Kui with the gospel.” 1

According to the Joshua Project, (http://www.joshuaproject net) .a website that breaks down each country into its  many different people groups, there are 1.6 million Kui. They were developing a plan to reach all 1.6 million!

I started asking the Lord, “In the next 10 years, do you want us to develop a plan to reach our whole people group with the gospel, as Langston and the Foxes did?”

I kept reading in Garrison’s book, and I continued to see this pattern of aiming to reach an entire people group. “In the late 1980s, three missionary families gathered a few Maasai believers and began to develop a plan to reach all of them.”2

David Garrison introduces the WIGTake question that these missionaries were clearly asking. He credits David Watson with initially forming the question for his work among an unreached people group in India. David Watson asked, “What’s it going to take to reach everyone in the people group?”

Even the disciples were told to develop a plan to reach entire people groups in Matthew 28:18–20.

Needless to say, the WIGTake concept, combined with Matthew 28, rocked my world. Eventually these conversations with God led to a complete change in the direction and vision for our church for the next 10 years.

This central WIGTake question led our Leadership Team into a season of prayer and fasting about the direction of our church for the next 10 years. According to the Joshua Project, the United States has 488 people groups who live here.. The two largest people groups listed are the ones most Americans belong to, and the total of those two people groups is approximately 225 million.3

We knew that aiming to tell the good news of Jesus to everyone in our people group is what John Langston and the Foxes would aim to do if they were sent here as  missionaries.

What would it take to reach the 200 million in our people group in 20 years (assuming 25 million are already believers)? I remember the day we sat down as a Leadership Team and talked about this and sought to develop a plan for the next 10 years!

Our WIGTake became: What’s it going to take to reach 1,000,000 in the next ten years so that we’re on track to reach 200 million in 20 years? As we thought about the number of campuses, buildings, staff, and money that would be required, we tried to come up with a calculation.

The average cost per baptism in the typical American  church is $1.5 million. Feel free to gasp in disbelief.

We calculated that each baptism at eLife costs $5,000. Using our current model, we realized that it would cost: $5,000 X 1,000,000 PEOPLE = $5,000,000,000
(5 billion dollars)!

It took us about 30 seconds to toss that idea.

Based on his research, John S. Dickerson concludes in his book The Great Evangelical Recession, 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church and How to Prepare: “If we want to rebuild and restore a culture of discipleship, we have no choice but to release the way American church was done in the 20th century.”

Looking at our “1,000,000” number that we had written on a whiteboard, we asked if there was a strategy that could reach all of these people? As our team sat there, we knew…we had heard the stories…we had been reading books about them for months. We had even visited some of these places. But the stories weren’t from America. They were from India, Africa, and China.

Millions were coming to Christ. We couldn’t help but ask, Could God do the same thing here?

I remember receiving the annual report a few years ago from one of our church’s mission partners in India. According to the opinion of an outside research team, this movement had grown to between eight to 12 million baptized believers meeting in hundreds of thousands of house churches over the last 25+ years.

Remember the cost per baptism in the United States? $1,500,000. Guess what the cost per baptism is in this movement—66 cents.

During this process of prayer and fasting, I asked the Leadership Team to read three books. The Great Evangelical Recession, Spent Matches and Church Planting Movements. With these books and stories in mind, we knew there was a strategy that could take us to the million. It’s the strategy Jesus encouraged in the Gospels and the early church implemented in Acts.

DMM stands for Disciple Making Movement. This is a strategy that can lead to seeing God start a Church Planting Movement (CPM). Those who implement a DMM strategy measure success differently than the typical church in the West does. Success can be summed up in two words: generational discipleship. They measure whether disciples are making disciples who make more disciples who make more disciples. They don’t plant churches hoping to get disciples (which is what I did). They make disciples, and from those disciple-making efforts, churches are planted. It’s multiplication, not addition.

There are more than 1,035 active movements in the world today, and the average size of these movements is more than 75,000 believers.

The average size of a church in these movements worldwide is 18 believers, according to Justin Long of Beyond.

What are DMM churches like? One leader in a movement overseas said that he’d put these churches up against any church in the West, in terms of commitment to God’s
Word, church health, courage in the face of persecution or any other category.

Beyond, a missions-sending organization, has posted a series of videos corresponding to the CPM steps, which I’ve found helpful in giving an introduction to this strategy. You can see them at

After much prayer and discussion, the Leadership Team was united in the belief that the Lord wanted us to pursue a Disciple Making Movement strategy in the next 10 years. The next step was announcing it to the entire church at our upcoming 10 year anniversary service on September 10, 2017. We decided in the months leading up to the anniversary to do a few sermon series that would help the church understand the reason for this vision shift.

I told the church about our friends around the world who are seeing millions come to Christ. I emphasized that DMM invites every ordinary believer, not just pastors, to be a disciple-maker and church planter. I explained further how believers often refer to themselves as church planters in these movements around the world. They’ll say, “I’m a taxi driver to provide for my family, but I’m actually a church planter.” Or, “I’m a schoolteacher to make a living, but I’m actually a church planter.” They see it as their job to make disciples and to see churches planted.

Elephants vs. Rabbits

Imagine you have been asked to feed a village that is running out of food. Would it be better to give the people in the village two adult elephants or two infant rabbits? What would you say?

Rabbits reproduce so quickly and elephants so slowly that elephants could never produce as much food as the rabbits, not that you’d want to eat either, though!

Now think about this in terms of church strategies. Elephant churches are traditional American churches. They’re big, usually have a building, require lots of money and a staff. They are hard to reproduce. Rabbit churches are small, often meeting in homes. They are led by ordinary believers.

DMM author Jerry Trousdale said, “God bless elephant churches; they serve wonderful functions. But from every strategic perspective, mega-churches and even average-sized churches will never fulfill the Great Commission without a goal and plan to launch thousands of rabbit churches. Only a rabbit church has the ability to reproduce rapidly, thrive in a dangerous environment, and naturally facilitate obedience-based discipleship within every member.”

But that left us asking, What do we do with the elephant?

The weekend after our 10 year anniversary, I shared with our church the desire to leverage every ministry in our church to help accomplish this new vision. That meant things were going to change!

I remember getting on my knees one Saturday afternoon and saying to the Lord, “What do you want us to do on the weekends? We know that weekends aren’t essential in DMM, but could our weekends be helpful? You’re our Senior Pastor, and we want to hear from you!”

Prayer and Testimony

The first thing he brought to my mind was what I’ve heard over and over again during the la 20 years. Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God, has said it, and my
dad reminds me of it all the time: prayer and testimony are the fuel of revival.

Obedience-Based Discipleship/Training

The second thing God brought to my mind is this: movements don’t happen unless people are reading, obeying, and sharing the Word of God. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 28:20: “Teach these new disciples to obey.”In movements overseas, it’s called obedience-based discipleship.

In our context, the word teaching doesn’t have the connotation of obedience at all. A better word, perhaps, if we want to communicate that we desire to teach to obey, is the word train. Training implies obedience or application.

I’d encourage you to think about this: We in the West move on once we’ve heard a Bible passage, regardless of whether anyone has obeyed it. We move on once we’ve learned, not once we’ve obeyed. That’s knowledge-based discipleship. With obedience-based discipleship, you don’t move on until you’ve obeyed.

As I was praying that day about how to leverage our weekends, prayer, testimony and training were three of the things I sensed the Lord saying to me. Our Campus Pastors agreed with this emphasis and began to design their weekend services around these elements.

A DMM Coach

As eLife began venturing into the world of DMM, I knew I needed a coach. I met Stan Parks and we knew he would be able to help us get started, avoid common mistakes
along the way, and answer our questions as we ran into difficult situations.

We asked Stan what he wanted us to do first. He said he wanted to take us through a 12-week DMM Catalyst Training. This training was based on principles God had used around the world, and Stan would just pass on biblical lessons the Holy Spirit had taught him through David Watson, Victor John, many other movement catalysts and personal study of Scripture. (See “Believing for the “Impossible”on this page.)

I said, “Great! Can you send it to me?” He said, “Nope.”

I asked, “Why not?”

Stan made it clear that this training was not information to be transferred but biblical principles to be obeyed. Because I come from a knowledge-based culture, my tendency would be to read the twelve lessons and think, Okay, I’ve got this; let’s move on. But, again, this wasn’t information; these were biblical principles he wanted to coach us to obey! That means you don’t even need to look at lesson two until you’ve obeyed the passage from lesson one. Stan told us that the Holy Spirit would speak to us as we took a fresh look at these Bible passages; he didn’t want to interfere with what the Holy Spirit wanted us to hear and obey.

Stan wanted us to see the DMM principles in Scripture so we’d be dependent on God, not on him.

Stan introduced the notion of the seven elements of “raising the sails” in our DMM training. He explained that these elements are found consistently in the lives of
ordinary believers who are successfully making disciples in these movements all over the world. 


Multiply Extraordinary Prayer

One element in “raising the sails” is Multiply Extraordinary Prayer. Stan said, “Your prayer life now is ordinary for you. Add something to it to make it extraordinary for you. Keep repeating the process.” So I issued a challenge. In a message to our staff, I said, “Let’s start praying every weekday for an hour rather than just once a week, much
like they started doing in the 1857–1858 Prayer Revival under the leadership of Jeremiah Lanphier.” After that, we started praying for one hour through lunch every day and for four to five hours every Sunday night.

Jerry Trousdale, author of The Kingdom Unleashed, wrote,

If we are going to see movements in the Global North, we will need to see a new, ongoing commitment to serious, intense, persistent prayer for God to open heaven, to raise up disciple makers and church planters, to guide us to His people of peace, and to empower our work. Without that, there will be no movements.

Go Out Among the Lost

Another element in “raising the sails” that Stan introduced to us is Go Out Among the Lost. Inspired by a story in Steve Addison’s book What Jesus Started, I contacted a friend of mine who was a Lubbock police officer and asked, “What neighborhoods are known to be the most dangerous in our city?” We were prompted to ask this question because one of the DMM principles we learned is to expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results and Steve shared a story about this in his book. We started prayer walking one of those difficult neighborhoods. See the story, “Knocking on Doors” in the article “Reaching the “PIPSY” People.

Casting Vision

Nine months prior to our 10 year anniversary, we started casting vision to people in our church whom we thought might be interested in participating in DMM training.

One of the great tragedies of the American church model, and it’s happened at our church too, is an attitude that results in suppressing the gifts, ambitions and callings of
ordinary believers. Churchgoers don’t typically hear the term disciple-maker and think, “that’s me!” or hear the term church-planter and think, that’s me!”

A great example comes from one of eLife’s DMM Church Planters. We cast vision to him, trained him, and then sent him out to train his team. Once he trained the team,
he and his team left our church and began to function as a DMM church. I asked him later how it was going. He said, “I feel like we were set free.”

We’ve got to recover the “culture of empowerment” of ordinary believers that was evident in the first-century church. Pastors and leaders, I implore you to join me in setting believers free to make disciples and plant churches!

The Transition: Counting the Cost

Transitioning a church to DMM is going to cost you. Just as Jesus encouraged the crowd in Luke 14 to count the cost before deciding to become his disciple, you need to
count the cost before engaging in DMM.

In The Kingdom Unleashed, David Broodryk, a pastor who embraced DMM, describes the process of pursuing DMM this way:

I really do think that entry into DMM is a death experience: unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, it can bear no fruit. But the problem is, you can’t risk failure without that; risking failure in itself is a sort of death experience. If who you are is dependent on whether this thing works or fails, then you will never take a risk. But if your identity is in Christ, then you say, “I’m going to try this; if it works, great, He gets the glory; and if it doesn’t work—well, it didn’t work, but I am still secure in Him.

Our entire staff experienced an identity crisis.

Pursuing DMM will cost you financially too. A ton of money walked out of our church.

I never thought I’d lead a church where we’d be celebrating people leaving. But, in truth, sending people out on a disciple-making mission is far more exciting than seeing
people sit comfortably in a chair each weekend, far from the people who need Jesus the most.

While losses can be painful, the good news is: God is pruning you so that you can bear more fruit. You will struggle with doubt, and likely face discouragement when people you’ve done ministry with for years decide to move on.

Jerry Trousdale warns us of the opposition that can come when we follow the Lord into a disciple-making vision: DMM practitioners have been ostracized from their denominations, have lost friends, have been vilified and slandered, all from within the Christian community.5

After casting vision for DMM and training people, we sent them out among the lost to places where Jesus had led them to go. Our DMM churches use the acronym PIPSY (derived from Matthew 25:31-46) to describe the places Jesus often leads us to go.

Going to PIPSY Places

The first P stands for “poor.” The I stands for “international.” The second P stands for “prisoner.” The S stands for “sick.” The Y doesn’t stand for anything— it just turns PIPS into an adjective.

Our teams have borne the most fruit going to PIPSY places to make disciples. See the article, “Reaching ‘PIPSY’ People.” Here is one story of what Jesus
has done through our outreach to PIPSY people.

The Sick

Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 10 and Luke 10 that when they entered a new area, they were to heal the sick and announce that the kingdom of Heaven was near.  Some of our teams have gone to hospitals to pray for the sick.

On one occasion, while doing this, one of the teams got lost while trying to get back and ended up in the burn unit. They met a family who had a loved one in that unit and the family wanted our team to pray with him. One of the family members pressed the button to get in and convinced the nurses to allow our team to come in to pray with the patient. They knocked on his door and more family members were sitting at his bedside.

The burn victim was in his sixties, and he had been injured a few days earlier in some kind of grease fire in his kitchen. The fire resulted in major burn wounds on his chest and arms, so bad that he couldn’t move his arms.

One of the members of the team, said, “I believe Jesus Christ has the power to heal you, and we’d like to pray for you. Is that okay?” The man nodded his head. They gently put their hands on the bandages on his arms and started praying. After the prayer was finished, one of the team members asked him, “How does it feel?”

The man lifted up his arms and started moving them around, and the family collectively gasped. Then he raised his arms above his head, and family members began crying right there by his bedside.

The Relaunch

When we announced the 1,000,000 in 10 years vision on our 10 year anniversary, all I could really even envision was “transition.” We were a large church and we were
transitioning to a new God-sized vision that would leverage everything at our church to reach the million.

And what happened in the two years following our “transition” is that people caught the vision we were casting! Hundreds went through our DMM training and some of those began to form DMM churches that met in their homes (much like the 50+ church planters we sent out on the 10 year anniversary). And those that we sent out began to pursue the lost, not by inviting them to Experience Life, but by inviting them and their family/friends to read and apply the Bible together in their home. The hope was that these Discovery Groups would commit their lives to Christ together and that many churches would be planted.

On the other hand, many others in our church prayed about it and sensed the Lord leading them to join other great churches in town. And by the way, we didn’t consider this a loss.

As a result of this “transition,” we were getting to both directly and indirectly “send” many people out from our church to the next assignment God had for them.

In the years following the 10 year anniversary, we began to realize that a day could come soon where our “leveraged” elephant ministries wouldn’t be needed anymore. They had accomplished the purpose for which they were leveraged. Namely, raising up workers to join us in making disciples and planting churches to reach the million!

We realized about 1.5 years into the “transition” that the Lord was, unbeknownst to us, actually using the “transition” to help us “relaunch” Experience Life as a network of DMM churches across the country. This wasn’t really on our radar at the beginning. While we thought it could be a possibility one day, it wasn’t something we were aiming for or setting goals toward. And we thought “one day” might be 10 or 20 years from now or more. We were just trying to follow the Spirit’s leading in making a “transition” and trusting that He’d then show us the next steps to take. And He did!

In the month before our 12 year anniversary, almost two years into the transition, our leadership met and we believed the Lord had made it clear that He wanted us to
“relaunch” soon. In order to do that well, we wanted to once again reorient the way we did our weekend gathering to give everyone the opportunity to come along. Instead
of sitting in rows of chairs, we put out tables and had a staff member sit at each table. And for six weeks, during the Sunday morning gathering, we modeled DMM church
and cast vision for being sent out together to form DMM churches across our city. Those six weeks were so powerful!

We were determined that if the Lord was leading us to “relaunch,” we were going to make sure everyone had the opportunity to understand the vision, ask questions, take time to pray and join us for the journey if that’s how the Spirit led. After those six weeks, we “officially” relaunched into DMM churches across our city and ceased having gatherings at our Downtown Campus on Sunday mornings. There were still many of us “gathering,” just not in a church building. Rather, we were gathering across our city in many homes. And these DMM churches weren’t just “gathering” in the traditional sense to sing some songs and hear a sermon. Their “gatherings” were more like missionary strategy meetings where they were praying, devoting themselves to Scripture and strategically planning how to take thegospel to parts of our city who need it most with the hope of seeing reproducing churches planted there.

One 16-year old girl that attends one of these DMM churches was asked by someone to describe the DMM church meeting. I loved her response. She said, “It’s a lot like the Book of Acts. Just go read that and you’ll understand.” There’s a lot of truth in that, though, from my own experience of being involved! In addition to gathering in homes on a regular basis, all of our DMM churches gather together at our Downtown Campus for prayer, testimony and training to encourage one another and celebrate what God is doing across our city (although not weekly, and not on Sundays).

During those six weeks of preparation for “relaunch” meetings, we were also encouraging our staff to begin forming or joining DMM churches. Many of them had not been in one yet because we still had gatherings on the weekends and most of the DMM churches met on Sunday mornings.

As our staff got involved in different DMM churches, you should’ve heard their reactions:

“How have I missed this all of my life?” 

“How could I ever do anything else?” 

“How could we ever go back?”

“How do we help everyone experience this?”

I think I can speak for most people who are involved in DMM churches by saying it’s one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever been a part of. In so many ways it’s what I’ve always longed for in church. Not that I didn’t love our church, I did! It’s just what I pictured when I read the New Testament but felt like I’d never experienced. It’s what I heard about overseas but never truly understood. 

On an average week, just my DMM church alone will talk to almost as many lost people as our megachurch would receive as first-time guests on a weekend in our heyday. And there’s just 35 of us (including kids). It’s amazing what a small group of sold out, on fire disciplemakers can do when they strategize together and go out among the lost to make disciples and plant churches.

After forming my own DMM church and experiencing it for a few months now, I can say I better understand why the Holy Spirit would’ve used our transition to lead us to “relaunch.” I can see now how a church like Experience Life could make more disciples and plant more churches by focusing on training, coaching, and resourcing a network of many churches rather than trying to build one big megachurch of our own (Eph. 4:11-12). And that’s what we’re up to now. We’ve started churches not only in Lubbock, but also in other West Texas cities, other cities throughout Texas and even other cities around our country.

In the two years since our transition, we’ve had the privilege of training hundreds of pastors from across the country (and even in other countries). And many of these pastors sense the Spirit of the Lord leading their church on a similar journey and many are joining us. We could never have dreamed this up! People’s hunger to experience (and obey) what they’re reading in the New Testament is growing. So many feel convicted, like us, that it’s time to take the Great Commission seriously and not just talk about it, but get out and do it!

It’s so exciting having many churches join us for the journey. It affirms so much of what the Holy Spirit has told us to do because He appears to be speaking to many other churches in the same way.

And in looking back, of the 12 years that Experience Life has existed, I really believe these last two have been the most exciting and impactful!

I hope our story will inspire you to be led by the Spirit because He will take you to better places than anything you could’ve dreamed up. And you may not even have a framework for where He’ll take you now. But if you follow Him, He’ll show you just what to do. And chances are, He’ll do infinitely more than you could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21). Just like he continues to do with us.

Our vision to see 1,000,000 disciples made in 10 years was never just about eLife. We know it is going to take many churches and organizations joining together to reach the million and ultimately the 200 million in our people group who need Jesus. If God is giving you a vision for movements in America as well, then let’s serve together! If there’s anything we can do to help you or your church with the journey you’re on, email us at [email protected] We’d be glad to help. Wouldn’t you love for a movement to break out in your region?

  1. David Garrison, Church Planting Movements: How God Is Redeeming a Lost World (Midlothian, VA: WIGTake Resources, 2004), 40.

  2. Garrison, 89.

  3.   Joshua Project, Country: United States, accessed September 26, 2018,

  4. Jerry Trousdale, Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 116.

  5. Jerry Trousdale and Glenn S. Sunshine, The Kingdom Unleashed
    (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018), 345.

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

Reaching “PIPSY” People

Reaching “PIPSY” People

Working Through the Schools

A teacher we knew in a school connected us with the social worker on-site who works with each of the families. I told her we were looking for families in the neighborhood whom we could serve. She was excited about our desire to help and said she had many children at the school whose families were deeply in need. She asked me, “How many families do you want?” She was willing to give us as many as we wanted to serve. I could hardly believe it.

I told her we’d like to start with five. Then I told her that we’d like to meet each family in their home, listen to their story, and see how we could help. All five families she contacted were eager for us to come and see them. They were PIPSY, after all.

We visited each family in their home, listened to their stories, asked them what their needs were and then we prayed for them. Our team would get together and brainstorm how we could best serve them and  then we’d start meeting needs.

As we met each family’s needs, we tried to gauge their spiritual interest. We knew their greatest need was a relationship with Jesus, and we tried to be discerning as to who was open to that.

For those who were spiritually interested, we would offer to train them to lead a Discovery Group with their family and friends.

We found that connecting with the school and getting into the homes of needy families in the school was by far the most fruitful means we had found for seeing groups start in that area.

Once we finished with the first five families, we asked for more and she eagerly gave us more. We never pressured anyone to do a Discovery Group. We were there to simply serve people, meet their needs and see who was interested.

Knocking on Doors—In the Worst Neighborhood

Another way we’ve gained access successfully into some of these PIPSY neighborhoods is by knocking on doors offering to pray for people. The schools were closed for the summer, so we needed a new point of entry.

My team would be the first to tell you that when I shared this idea with them they didn’t love it.

I told them I thought we should start with a certain apartment complex. It had the reputation of being one of the worst in the area. In fact, several people told me that it was where they used to buy drugs before they started following Jesus. They said, “You can get any drug in town in that place.” I thought  it seemed like the perfect place to start!

After we prayed together, before beginning to knock on doors, something happened that affirmed immediately we were supposed to be there. Carol pulled up. I recognized Carol immediately. She had stopped me at a gas station about a year ago and told me she had seen me on TV and asked me to pray for her. I prayed for her right there and didn’t figure I’d ever see her again.

She rolled down her window, and I walked up to the car and said hello to her. Surprised, I asked her, “Do you live here?” She had lived there for more than 10 years. I told her what we were doing there. She started telling us more about it and was able to point out the notoriously dangerous apartments. She said, “Do you guys see that apartment over there?” We said, “The third one from the left?” She replied, “Yes. That’s a drug house. People come in and out all the time buying drugs.”

We thanked her for the information, and my friend and I decided to knock on that door first. We were nervous, but DMM training taught us that the hardest and scariest places often yield the greatest results. We wanted to go to the hardest place in the apartment complex first. When we knocked on the door, Billy answered.

Billy had just gotten out of prison. He was in his sixties. We told him we were praying in the area and wanted to know if we could pray for him in any way. He stepped outside and told us that we could pray for him to get back on his feet again. We prayed for him and then continued to chat with him. We learned that the apartment actually belonged to Billy’s son, Joe. He was staying with Joe until he could get on disability and get his own place. My friend and I exchanged glances when we realized it was the son, not the dad, who was the gatekeeper in that apartment complex and possibly the chief drug dealer. We told him that we usually go out praying for people on Thursdays and that we’d come and see him again the next week.

Every Thursday morning, upon our arrival, Billy would see my car through his window and come outside to ask us to pray for him. We almost never had a chance to make it to his door. He’d chat with us for a bit, and when we’d ask him if there was anything we could do for him, he’d never ask for anything but prayer.

Each time we met with Billy, we tried to ask him more about his son, Joe. He’d tell us that his son was on the wrong path and that he wanted us to pray for him to get back on the right path. I asked him once if we could go and pray for his son, and he said that his son didn’t believe in God and probably wouldn’t be open to that.

One day when we visited the complex, Billy didn’t come right out, so we knocked on his door. Joe answered. He said his dad was in the shower and that he’d send him out when he was finished. Since this was the first time I had met Joe, I asked if we could pray for him. He turned us down but assured us that he’d send his dad out shortly.

Billy came out and had us pray for him. I continued to ask more about his son. I knew that we looked out of place in that apartment complex, so I asked him one day, “Is Joe okay with us being here on Thursdays?”

Since I knew Joe was probably the gatekeeper, much like a tribal village chief, I wanted to know what he thought about our presence. Billy told us that his son was cool with us being there, so I asked him to reassure Joe that we’re not the police and that we’re just there to be a blessing to the apartment complex.

We honestly believed that if someone gave us trouble Joe would come to our defense. Why? Because we made sure his dad was taken care of. Thanks to that relationship, it seemed we had Joe’s blessing to be there.

Once this relationship had continued for some time, we asked Billy, “What would you think about us training you to lead a Discovery Group in your home? We can help you, Joe, his wife and everyone else who comes  through your door to learn to discover more about God by reading, obeying and sharing his Word.” Billy seemed interested in doing that but told us he didn’t think Joe would feel the same way.

Also, Billy couldn’t read very well.

We told him, “How about this? We’re going to get you a speaker that will play the Bible, and then we’ll come on Thursdays and sit outside your apartment, listen to a passage with you, and teach you how to listen to God and obey him. How does that sound?” He said that sounded great.

Then I said, “Maybe you can invite some others from this same apartment complex to join us, and we can all listen to God’s Word and obey it together.” Billy agreed and mentioned some people he wanted to have come.

A week later we started the Discovery Group with Billy, and each week the group has grown. First it was just Billy. Then Billy and his neighbor Terry came. Then his other neighbor Tony came. Then his two other neighbors, Bob and Linda, came. Then others. In the first few weeks we taught the group the seven-question DBS process so they could eventually lead it on their own without our assistance. It is very exciting to watch the group begin to obey God together and share his Word with others. We regularly cast vision to this Discovery Group that God wants to use them to reach their entire apartment complex.

Even though Joe isn’t receptive yet, we still have a sense that he may be a Saul who is going to have a Paul-like conversion and that he will be instrumental in seeing that apartment complex follow Jesus, especially as he witnesses firsthand the radical transformation in his father’s life.

Carol connected us to Billy. And Billy connected us to his oikos to begin a Discovery Group. And it all resulted from knocking on the most dangerous door in that complex.

Henry Spreads DMM in Prison

In 2014, we launched our first Freedom Campus in the Lubbock County Detention Center.

After our 10 year anniversary, instead of just trying to draw men to a worship service on the weekend we started casting vision to them and training them to be disciple-makers. We’d suggest to them that they “go out among the lost” and start Discovery Groups. Perhaps those groups would become churches, and perhaps people in those churches would catch a vision to go back to some of their rough neighborhoods upon their release to make disciples and start churches there too.

Henry caught the vision to be a disciple-maker and go through our DMM training. Henry and the others in his training were challenged to go back to their pods and begin implementing the training. Soon after, Henry and one of the other inmates started a DG in pod 4D. This was done without assistance from us. We trained them and served as their coach but let them do the “work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12).

One Sunday morning in the worship gathering, Henry stood and shared about how the DG was growing and their prayer times as a group were very powerful. He said there was only one problem. They couldn’t seem to keep their group meeting time under four hours!

Henry’s group meets every single day in that pod, and lives are being transformed. They’re so hungry and they just can’t get enough of hearing and obeying God’s Word and praying with one another.

In fact, Stan said one key hindrance to growth in movements is if the church gets the idea that they are only “supposed” to meet once a week.

Push Week

The eLife staff decided to devote a whole week to prayer, fasting, going out among the lost looking for Persons of Peace, and seeing Discovery Groups started. We called it a DMM Push Week. In those four days alone, our four teams were able to have 424 spiritual conversations, extend 121 DG invitations, and start 29 new groups. We were so encouraged we also decided to schedule even more DMM Push Weeks in the future.

Kasey’s Answered Prayer (Push Week)

We prayed together for two hours on Sunday night and then for another four hours on Monday before going out. We also fasted together as a staff all day Monday, prayed together for another hour each day and then had a testimony time on Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. to tell stories of what God did.

In addition to prayer and fasting, on Tuesday through Friday we went out among the lost for at least two hours each day. Every team went to a different area of town where we had already been working in previous weeks and mapped out a plan to blitz the area over the four days.
My team went back to Billy’s neighborhood.

I was teamed up with Phil, the finance director on staff at eLife. We went to the first apartment complex assigned to us and began to engage people in spiritual conversations.

In one of the apartment complexes we visited, we met a woman named Kasey. We had knocked on her door and when she answered, I introduced Phil and myself and then asked our usual question.

Kasey seemed excited we were there and then said to us, “You’re never going to believe this.” That got our attention. She said that she was talking to her mom just the day before about how she felt that they needed to “grow closer to God.” She said she went to her room later that afternoon and said a prayer. She told us that she prayed, “God, if you’re real, and if you care about my family, would you send me a sign that you’re real and that you care?” After telling us about her prayer, she pointed at us and said, “You are that sign.”

I was speechless. She had literally been waiting for us. She asked for a sign from God and He sent us to her front door the very next morning to offer to pray for her. She was eager for prayer. Then when we asked her about bringing her friends and family together for a DG, she started telling us who all she’d bring. We saw an oikos opening right before our eyes. We planned to start the DG the following week.

When we left Kasey’s apartment that day, I praised God for her responsiveness, but I felt a strong conviction from the Holy Spirit along the lines of Matthew 9:37–38: “Then He [Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ ”
People all over the world just like Kasey are the plentiful harvest Jesus talks about in these verses. They are ready to be harvested. They are spiritually open. They would be excited to receive the gospel if someone presented it to them. They’re waiting for workers to come and tell them.

Andrew and Kristin

Kristin and her husband, Andrew, are some of eLife’s most effective disciple-makers. They went through the first round of DMM training in the spring of 2017 and we commissioned them and sent them out as church planters at our 10 year anniversary. As of this book’s publication, they and their church have started several first-generation Discovery Groups, and they’ve even seen one second-generation Discovery Group started—and all of this in just six months or so.

In a recent coaching meeting I talked to Andrew and Kristin about going out among the lost and looking for Persons of Peace. What they told me blew me away. They said they’ve been going to Walmart twice a week to pray for people.

They do their personal shopping at other times, and the two weekly trips they mentioned are times they go with the sole intent to pray with people and try to find Persons of Peace.  I was surprised to hear that they go to Walmart a few extra times each week just to talk to people. I asked them how long they typically stay there praying for people. They told me they stay about two to three hours each time.

I almost fell out of my chair. Andrew and Kristin are ordinary people with full-time jobs. I asked Andrew and Kristin how many people they can pray for in a two to three-hour period. They said they typically pray for 45 people before they leave and that they’ve taught their daughter to pray for people too. With her help, it is easier to get to the 45.

I started laughing out loud! I was thinking, Who do they think they are, disciple-makers of Jesus or something? They said they just greet people at random and let them know that they are out praying for people. Next, they ask if they can pray for the person in some way.

They said that almost everyone responds positively and wants prayer. They told me that having gone through the DMM training, one thing they now ask people after they pray for them is, “Would you be interested in getting your family and friends together to discover more from the Bible about God and His plan for your life?”
I then asked how most people had responded to this question. Andrew said they have only started asking that question recently, but many say they’d love to. Then they exchange phone numbers.

I asked Andrew and Kristin what inspired them to start going to Walmart? They said that Phase One training was really instrumental in getting them out among the lost and that DMM training helped them see their time among the lost as an opportunity to find Persons of Peace and start Discovery Groups.

Andrew also said that he and Kristin try to take people with them as often as they can so they can train their friends to do this as well. Andrew said he’ll say to his friend, “Here, watch me do it, then you can do it next.” He said his friends are usually pretty nervous, but after they see him do it a few times, they’re usually open to trying it.
Andrew and Kristin are ordinary people who are fired up about Jesus, motivated by the Holy Spirit and trying to obey everything they read in God’s Word. 

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

Learning to do Church from the Mission Field