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 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Famine, Poverty & Violence

Three More Ways Drugs Cause Death

Famine, Poverty & Violence

Among the unreached peoples, especially the Frontier People Groups, the suffering that drugs cause to individual addicts is far outweighed by the misery caused to families and communities.  Millions of deaths are directly caused by addictions, but there are also millions of collateral deaths. Should missionaries merely call for prayer for those struck down by famines, poverty and violence, or should we follow the example of previous generations who discerned root problems and globally exposed the evils and destruction caused by the death industries of their day? Any attempt at development and poverty elimination must confront these issues:

1. Drug crops displace food crops causing famines.

The current famine in Yemen is risking millions of lives and may be the worst humanitarian disaster of this decade. Yemen’s annual production of “khat,” an addictive drug cash crop, has reached 190,000 tons and taken over 15% of arable land and 38% of agricultural water badly needed for food production.1 Food prices soar, burning profits made by growing lucrative drug crops instead. This problem is global, including hashish (marijuana) from Mexico to Morocco to Albania, coca (cocaine) in Latin America, opium from Afghanistan through Asia. All it takes is bad weather or war to trigger widespread famine. But it becomes extremely complex to return to other crops once a generation of farmers has only learned to raise drugs.

From 1700-1900, some 60 million people died of famines in India, where significant land area was used for opium and hemp/marijuana, reducing the state of Bengal from wealth to poverty.2 Some argued opium was helpful because it assuaged the appetite of starving people! Globally, billions of acres produce non-nutritive crops like nicotine (tobacco) and caffeine (coffee/ matte/tea). Increasingly, foods that could be eaten areused for alcohol production, including 98% of barley and 40% of corn grown in the USA,3 where also 85% of the profits from growing grapes come from wine production.4

2. Drugs impoverish whole families because they use up valuable income and make addicts unable to work productively.

Evangelical missionaries have often raised the standard of living and health of poor communities significantly simply by helping those coming to Christ get rid of expensive and debilitating addictions. Drugged family members cannot hold down jobs. Frequently 30% to 50% of the income of poor families goes to purchase tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Wives hide their money so their husbands won’t steal it and spend it on their addictions.  The founder of the Evangelical movement, John Wesley, quickly found that poor families were healthier and wealthier if their income was not spent on non-nutritive addictive substances.

3. Drugs increase violent crimes & collateral deaths.

It is hard to tabulate the number of deaths caused to the spouses or children of drug users due to neglect or domestic violence. Roughly 40% of all crimes in the USA are committed under the influence of alcohol— counting other drugs, over 60% (using urine tests).5 Tens of thousands are killed by drunk or drugged drivers and in other accidents.6

It is fair to say that, apart from abortion, addictive drugs are globally the greatest man-made cause of poverty, misery, and death. Evangelical missionaries have found that helping people groups to come to Christ must include helping them put off the very substances that are dragging their families to the grave.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Missionaries vs. The Opium Industry

Missionaries vs. The Opium Industry

From the Editor: This historical case study proves that missionaries can provoke global change by challenging powerful industries and even their own government’s policies---and by coming alongside the hurting they open the hearts of the resistant to the gospel.

I am profoundly convinced that opium traffic is doing more evil in China in a week than missions are doing good in a year,” declared Rev. J. Hudson Taylor at the Centenary Global Missions Conference in 1888. Twenty-eight years prior, Taylor’s home country of Great Britain had just finished its second war to protect and enrich British opium traders in China. Taylor implored his audience to sign on to a resolution that would,

acknowledge the incalculable evils, physical, moral and social, which continue to be wrought in China through the opium trade, a trade which has strongly prejudiced the people of China against all Missionary effort.... [and repudiate] the position occupied by Great Britain, through its Indian administration, in the manufacture of the drug and promotion of the trade...[calling] Christians of Great Britain and Ireland to plead earnestly with God, and to give themselves no rest until this evil is entirely removed.1

Taylor and missionaries like him faced stiff opposition in their quest to banish opium from Chinese society. Many Britishers taken with Social Darwinism viewed the Chinese as an inferior people and so had no qualms selling them opium.2 Poppy farmers, opium traders and government officials, both foreign and native, all had financial incentives to maintain the status quo. Many pragmatic and opportunistic arguments were put forward in favor of continuing the trade: “we are only meeting a need,” “farmers earn more money from opium than from food crops,” “if we do not make money someone else will.”3  With so many powerful entrenched interests the problem appeared intractable. The missionaries were not dissuaded. Despite having much to do on many fronts they pressed on. Historian Kathleen L. Lodwick put it perfectly in her book Crusaders Against Opium: Protestant Missionaries in China 1874-1917:

The missionaries had many other serious concerns— conversions, translation of the Bible, religious literature, and music into Chinese; famine relief; improvement of the        status of women; anti-footbinding efforts—with which opium had to compete for their time and attention….The missionaries, especially a few vocal ones, were the publicists who constantly called the  government to task for policies the missionaries considered wrong….4 Any missionary who departed [from China] was urged to spread the word among the homefolk about the evils of opium and…supplied with all of the latest antiopium literature to aid him....5

Missionaries sought to change public opinion of opium. Many of the missionary doctors working in China had an intimate understanding of the tragic effect opium had on their patients. The anti-opium league in Great Britain worked with these missionary doctors to produce a pamphlet that would galvanize anti-opium sentiment. The pamphlet outlined the tragic consequences of opium use, the difficulty doctors had in helping their patients break the habit, the number of people committing suicide with opium and how Great Britain’s involvement in the trade damaged the reputation of the gospel.6  The Bishop of Durham in 1881 put it thusly,“It is no small hindrance to a Christian Missionary to have cast at him such a Chinese proverb as this: ‘You bring incense in one hand, a spear in the other;’ which is, being interpreted, ‘You bring us the Bible in one hand, opium in the other.’”7

The movement against opium found allies in Chinese students returning from studying abroad. Many of these students felt ashamed because the rest of the world looked down on China because of its opium problem. They had come to believe China couldn’t be a strong nation unless opium addiction was dealt a decisive blow. Churches in China worked tirelessly to rehabilitate addicts and prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place, so the Chinese increasingly saw missionaries as allies against the powerful opium industry and as people who genuinely cared for their people.

When at last the Chinese government made another attempt to ban opium in 1906 the groundwork for a successful transition had been made. Political attitudes in Great Britain were changing. Though opium had become fashionable in the 1870s, by 1906 many of the newly elected Members of Parliament were evangelicals who strongly opposed opium. Finally, after over a century of anti-opium agitation by missionaries, China and Great Britain came to an agreement to end the opium industry’s trade into China within 10 years. “The anti-opium forces [in Parliament], ‘a happy band of pilgrims’ who had fought so long to reach the goal now in sight, linked each other’s arms and marched down from the lobby to the street singing the doxology.”8

Editor’s Note: In 1909 opium was banned in the USA and other countries and an International Commission on Opium met in Shanghai to discuss ending non-medicinal opium production. However, heroin, invented by Bayer, Germany (1895) and distributed to cure opium addiction in the US, soon became a French industry, grown in French colonies in S.E. Asia and refined in Marseilles. There were virtually no Protestant missionaries in these areas at the time. By the 1950s, CIA anti-communist efforts, the opium industries and heroin refineries were all entrenched in the “Golden Triangle” with little opposition from the global community. Causing almost constant civil war, multiple attempts have been made since 1980 to restrict opium growing in Burma/Myanmar, with the Christian Kachin and other churches founding an antiopium activist network called“Pat Ja San” which has over 90 detox centers.9

The Way of Heaven

In 1840, a Chinese official Lin Zexu wrote a letter to Queen Victoria signed by the Emperor saying:
“Where is your conscience?...Since [opium] is not allowed to do harm to your country, then even less should you let it be passed on to the harm of other countries—how much less to China—[to be] careful of [their] own lives but careless of the lives of others.… Such conduct is repugnant to human feeling and at variance with the Way of Heaven…Men are like this all the world over: that they cherish life and hate what endangers life… the Way of Heaven holds good for you as well as for us, and your instincts are not different from ours; nor nowhere are there men so blind as not to distinguish what profits and what does harm….”

Queen Victoria never received the letter.1a


1729 China makes recreational opium illegal. 200 chests (14 tons)
1760s 1000 chests (70 tons)
1799 China bans opium imports and growing.
1820 Chinese emperor requires confiscation of opium “poison.” 10,000 chests (700 tons)
1838 4–12 million addicts
1840 First Opium War 1839–42 China cedes Hong Kong to Britain. 40,000 chests (2,800 tons)
1860 Second Opium War 1856–1860) China legalizes opium. 70,000 chests (4,900 tons)2a*
1880 95,000 chests (6,650 tons) with an equal amount being grown in China 2017 Under UN, British, and American oversight, Afghan production of opium and heroin production soared. 10,500 tons (9000 from Afghanistan), enough for 600–900 tons of heroin.3a

  1. 1 Lodwick, 50-51

  2. 2 Lodwick, 30

  3. 3 Lodwick, 9

  4. 4 Lodwick, 31

  5. 5 Lodwick, 50

  6. 6 Lodwick, 40,46,47,33

  7. 7

  8. 8 Lodwick, p 123

  9. 9
    Some are helping this effort through international publications.

  10. 1a War.htm

  11. 2a
    *Equal to the global production of opium in 2000AD,

  12. 3a

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Righting a Wrong-Side-Up World

A Kingdom Task

Righting a Wrong-Side-Up World
When Jesus’ disciples arrived in Thessalonica the people warned their rulers, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.” (Acts 17:6) They were not wrong. Jesus’ people were turning the world on its head. Rather, the Thessalonicans were mistaken in failing to see that the world was already wrong side up.
Today, we too struggle to see clearly. Our world is increasingly complex and our cultural baggage biases our perceptions. Wherever we go we hear competing messages of how the world ought to be righted. All around us, on the news, in schools and from politicians there is a conflict of visions. Cutting through the confusion lies with us, the light of the world. (Matt. 5:14)
The stakes are high. We must be mindful that the world’s visions are a sham. Only Jesus’ reign—only His vision for the world—will result in human flourishing. As we make disciples around the world, we shouldn’t fail to equip them to reorient their norms and challenge their institutions to more faithfully align with Christ’s reign.
We need the Spirit and we need each other in this task. Our sight is clouded by our culture. Peter, despite spending years living with and ministering with Jesus, did not grasp God’s heart for all peoples until Jesus sent His Spirit to Cornelius’ house. It was then Peter learned “God shows no partiality.” (Acts 10:34) He saw more clearly how Jesus purposed to create in Himself one new humanity from Jew and Gentile. (Eph. 2:15) This revelation ran counter to the voices that informed Peter’s Jewish community. When Peter was snared again by those voices he ceased eating with Gentiles. It took Paul’s bold words, the “wounds of a friend,” to restore Peter to Jesus’ way. (Prov. 27:6, Gal. 2:11) May we always thank God for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Jesus triumphed over the “principalities and powers,” freeing us from fruitless norms and practices. (Col. 2:15–23) When many in Ephesus came into Jesus’ kingdom they brought out their books of magic and publicly burned them—books valued at 50,000 drachma (millions of dollars in today’s currency). (Acts 19:19) Their new way of life greatly upset the economic order of the day, leading the idol makers to riot. (Acts 19:27) Their obedience is our example. As Paul taught the greedy Roman governor Felix about “…righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come,” (Acts 24:25) so we ought to humbly bear witness, in word and deed, to Jesus’ reign to a corrupt world.
Overturning cherished assumptions triggers resistance, but we will have help. Jesus warned His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) The world that hates us is the same world for which God spared not His own Son. Jesus sends us as the Father sent him (John 20:21). For this task Jesus said it was better that He should go, for if He went He would send the Spirit and  “…when He comes, [the Spirit] will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment….” (John 16:8) And the body of Christ, “the temple of the Holy Spirit,’” will actively participate in this work. (1 Cor. 6:19) As we make disciples we must prayerfully, wisely and corporately help them to discern where norms and institutions diverge from God’s good intentions. Then, in the power of the Spirit, in word as well as deed, we will turn the world upside down.  

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Year of the Frontier

Year of the Frontier

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Hope in the World of Addiction & Sex Trafficking

Hope in the World of Addiction & Sex Trafficking

Frontier People Groups are heavily impacted by addiction and sex trafficking. The 2014 Global Slavery Index said two-thirds of the 36 million victims of trafficking come from Asia, with India, China and Pakistan at the top.1

There are more than 270 million addicts worldwide, and seven people die every minute from drug and alcohol addiction and abuse. That is more than 3.6 million per year. It is a daunting task to put hope within reach of every person struggling with a life controlling addiction in foreign countries. However, it is being attempted through collaboration of domestic and international missionaries through Teen Challenge (TC) ministries.

The hope is not just freedom from addiction but salvation in Christ. Each day these individuals are venturing into over 100 countries, in streets, sewers, mountains and valleys, rescuing people from the depths of despair and desolation. Where possible, Global TC trains indigenous leaders to carry out the call. These leaders are seeking new and innovative methods to save the addicted, hopeless, and desperate.

In the sensitive countries, it is increasingly difficult to share the gospel without government intrusion or regulation. Many face persecution or imprisonment for their efforts. However, recently some governments in the Golden Triangle have addiction problems so serious that they have asked for help from TC, even knowing TC will bring the gospel with them.

Drug addiction is foundational to human trafficking, both in trading drugs for children and in addicting and keeping the sex slave victims.2 It can affect multiple generations. Tina had been sold as a sex slave. After birthing two girls, Tina contracted AIDS and died. A TC facility took Lula and Lisa in and cared for them. Today, Lula has a college education and serves the Lord by seeking out women and children in the red-light districts, offering placement in a center and helping to legalize the adoption process for abandoned children.

Whole families are victims of the drug and slave trade. One TC director studied 11 tribes in one country with a significant death rate due to HIV/AIDS. He learned it is culturally acceptable for children to be prostituted within their own homes, often facilitated by addicted male family members, as the children become the source of income for the entire family. The younger the girl or boy the more can be charged. The result of these horrors is a rampant spread of sexually transmitted diseases, brokenness, addiction, and death. Now TC graduates and staff go into these villages teaching and providing HIV/ AIDS testing, prenatal/postnatal care and education to prevent further transmittal of the diseases when a baby is born. Building rapport within the tribes facilitates sharing the Word of God and provides opportunities for intervention and a bridge to recovery.

Some would say most addiction recovery programs are reactive but never get to the core of the hopelessness. All over the world, TC programs are proactively seeking to put hope within reach of everyone devastated by addictions. Staying true to its DNA, TC staff and students evangelize and seek to save the lost. Putting hope within reach is not just a motto. It is the action of sharing Christ and making disciples who make disciples around the world. (Matt. 28:19-20)

  1. 1 Enos, Olivia (2014-11-20). “Nearly Two-Thirds of Human
    Trafficking Victims Are from Asia”. The Daily Signal.

  2. 2

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

24:14 Goal: Missions in a Dangerous World:

Missiological Myths vs. Biblical Patterns

24:14 Goal: Missions in a Dangerous World:

Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that before He returns, many calamities will come, including all kinds of natural and human disasters. Believers will be handed over to persecution, hated by all ethnē because of Jesus and even put to death. Many will turn away from faith in Jesus and betray and hate each other. Due to this increase in wickedness, the love of most believers will grow cold. Not a nice picture, huh?

He then says and (Matt. 24:14a) in the middle of all of that mess (rather than saying but or in spite of), two related things will happen. 1) Those who stand firm to the end will be saved, and 2) this good news of the kingdom will be shared publicly in the whole world as a sacrificial testimony to all ethnē – and then the end will come! In other words, all peoples will be given the “Jesus option” before the end comes. And that will happen in the middle of all the turmoil, not in spite of it.

Waves of persecution have happened throughout history and are nothing new. Two main responses have occurred: 1) believers get upset and surprised when it happens and advise each other to lie low so maybe they will not be targeted; and 2) some believers become wisely bold, yet pure in motivation. This latter group has made many disciples during these periods, often at great cost.

In the mid-1980s, about half the mission force from all organizations in Indonesia were forced out of the country. Many who remained or had just arrived realized a new urgency and took bold new steps to make disciples in spite of any risks they faced. Today, in several major countries, workers are under severe government scrutiny or getting kicked out. What will be our response? Will we succumb to missiological myths or follow biblical patterns? See what you think of the following.

Myth 1:  The safest place in the world is in the center of God’s will. Many interpret this to mean physical safety. If one is faithful, one will not suffer or certainly not die. Another version is “mission can be done in a safe way if we are careful enough.”

Biblical Pattern—We will suffer while in the center of God’s will. Jesus lived completely in the center of God’s will – and He was killed. In fact, He knew He would be killed and He risked His life willingly.


In 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, Paul describes how he and his team experienced pressure beyond what they felt they could endure. They despaired to the point they felt like their death sentence had been passed. Yet in that terrible situation they learned to depend on God and continued to impact people.

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul lists his many sufferings: multiple floggings, shipwrecks, stonings, imprisonments, bandits, hunger, thirst, nakedness, danger in numerous places and from numerous types of people. Let’s be real. Proclaiming Jesus among the unreached can cause real pain, grief, despair, injustice, tragedy, etc. Let’s be more real. It will all be worth it when we see reproducing disciples with changed lives in Christ.

Myth 2: If we handle our identity carefully, have a good business platform, avoid “missionary” identity, and use very good electronic security measures, the governments and religious authorities of the world will let us continue to work and we might be effective.

Biblical Pattern—We should be bold witnesses even when watched by the authorities. People already know who we are and are watching us. So we may as well be wisely public. We want to be wise (and not get persecuted for acting foolishly), but we must not allow the powers of this world to push us into adopting a secular persona. No very cautious person has ever been known to catalyze a movement to make disciples.

Jesus said: “When [not if] you are brought before … the authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Luke 12:11-12, NIV)

He calls us to continue to share, even under the threat of death. He invites us also to rejoice when we suffer disgrace for Jesus’ sake. ‘Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.’ (Matt. 5:12a, NIV) The apostles modeled this boldness and this joy.

The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:27-29, NIV)

The authorities were furious and decided to put them to death. Gamaliel convinced them not to kill them, so they just flogged them (!) and again commanded them not to talk about Jesus.

Did they stop? Not a bit. They never stopped teaching. They taught day by day. They did it publicly in the temple courts and from house to house. And they rejoiced they were counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the name! (Acts 5: 40-42)

Myth 3:  We, the outsiders, can escape suffering if we are careful enough, and still effectively help our local partners learn to be prepared for suffering.

Biblical Pattern—We must model willingness to suffer for Jesus. We rightly feel concerned when groups we help start do not multiply. A reason often given is that everyone in the culture is suspicious of others and thus hesitant to make disciples. Could it also be that we have not modeled a willingness to risk arrest and suffering for the sake of the gospel?

Let’s be willing and bold to risk in genuine humility. The Apostle Paul gave us a model and a challenge in this, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1). Jesus’ example ultimately led to His great sacrifice – and the huge response which followed.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

The Addiction Industries:  Reform Efforts and the Unique Role of Missionaries

The Addiction Industries:  Reform Efforts and the  Unique Role of Missionaries

Frontier People Groups live in the areas of the world heavily impacted by illegal drug industries. Drug use has become epidemic in South Asia, SE Asia and Central Asia including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Drug use in India is skyrocketing where 89% of drug addicts are educated and 99% are men, but children ages 9–10 are already using tobacco and alcohol, with twelve-year-olds starting on hashish and opium or heroin.1

Missionaries have long found that discipling people to Christ was thwarted unless lives were delivered from addictions. With addiction rates so high, any opposition may seem hopeless. It took over 100 years of protest, mostly by evangelical reform groups, to fight the opium/ heroin and alcohol epidemics of the 18th and 19th centuries. We are naïve to think it will take less determination to fight today’s epidemics.

Since missionaries do not profit from the drug industries, they can uniquely act to expose harms. Just as medical missionary doctors in China eventually led the way in proving the harm done by the opium industry, so missionaries today can document impacts of drugs, tobacco and alcohol on their communities, and expose the truth to the world.

Epidemics and Revivals Spark Reform Efforts

David Courtright writes, in Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World, that five things have provoked drug reform movements: “Direct harms, social costs, sinful conduct, deviant groups, and anxieties about collective future….”2  He points out that “direct harm to innocents is the most morally forceful argument against drug use and the one that cuts across all cultures.”3   Revivals are also a key factor. “Revivalism…pressed Christians toward social duty…thousands of evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic sought to apply the teachings of the Bible to every arena of life.”4  Two major awakenings in the 19th century pushed forward widespread opposition to the drug industries on three continents: North America, China and India. In all three cases, epidemic use of drugs and/or alcohol were seen as destroyers of families, causes of crime and immorality and leading causes of disease and death.

Tobacco was the glaring exception. Because it was seen as healthful until the mid-1800s, both Catholic and later Protestant missionaries spread tobacco use globally along with secular traders and it was used as currency in some parts of the world.

Reform Wars in the USA

No country has as extensive a history of the war between reformers and addiction industries as the United States. Although many expressed concerns about tobacco’s addictive nature, when it was shown to harm health, revivalist and new health-oriented denominations took a determined stance, like the Wesleyan Methodists, Baptists, Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists.5  The cigarette rolling machine (1880) increased daily output by 500 times, and children as young as five became addicted. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) campaigned for laws banning sales of tobacco to minors (under 18-21) and between 1895 and 1921 fifteen states banned cigarette sales entirely.6  The tobacco industry reacted with heavy lobbying and bribes to have cigarettes included in soldiers’ rations in WWI, to have bans overturned and to addict minors by making everything from candy cigarettes to pushing down age limits for legal purchases, knowing 90% of lifetime smokers start before the age of 21.Addiction rates soared again, reaching 41% of adults by the 1960s.8  Late 20th century anti-smoking campaigns have met with some success while the industry pushes nicotine addiction in other forms—gums, e-cigarettes, patches and vaping.

Christians did not oppose alcohol (merely its abuse) until manufactured distilled spirits became ubiquitous and alcoholism became epidemic in England and the US. Women’s movements protested alcohol’s effects on society and the harm being done to families and children. After pushing for moderate use of distilled liquor proved ineffective at freeing people from alcoholism, “temperance” morphed in the late 19th century into “T-total” abstinence. 

Education and publication were the key to reform. In the 1880s, the WCTU, supported by the US government, successfully established a national Scientific Temperance Instruction movement to teach the dangers of alcohol in public schools and get children to sign abstinence pledges.9  Campaigns like these, and thousands of activist local temperance societies, led to a constitutional amendment and national Prohibition of all industrial alcohol from 1920-1933.

Contrary to myths propagated by the alcohol industry, Prohibition successfully dropped addiction rates from 5% in 1910 to an average of 2.6% during Prohibition, returning to 4.5% by 1950.10  The alcohol industry had fought back using movies to normalize drinking in homes, house parties and events instead of in saloons. Re-legalization in 1933 killed the temperance movement and the rate of alcoholism increased steadily; by 2017 alcoholism rates in the USA had surged to a shocking 12.7%, according to the Washington Post.11

By 1923 the USA also set up a Narcotics Division to the U.S. Treasury Department which banned opium and heroin. This ban stuck, because far less Americans were addicted to opium than to alcohol, and alcohol provided significantly more tax income to the government.12  Marijuana was banned in 1937, but laws have been increasingly overturned since 2000.

To this day addiction rates are significantly less for illegal drugs than for legal drugs, with some 14% of Americans addicted to tobacco, 12.7% to alcohol, 10% to pharmadrugs (painkillers, stimulants, tranquilizers, sedatives, antidepressants), 1.3% to marijuana and only 0.5% to illegal drugs. Most of the non-addicted are non-users.13

Drug Reform Efforts in India  

Recognizing harms and social costs, in 1925 Mahatma Gandhi called for banning opium and alcohol in India, and temperance became one of the platforms of the Indian nationalist movement. “In his call for prohibition Gandhi hoped for support from most Muslims and high caste Hindus but recognized he might face opposition from India’s British rulers, who depended heavily on revenues collected from the production and sale of alcohol.”14 But in the 1947 Constitution, prohibition goals were delegated to the state governments, implemented in some, but repealed in others due the government’s need for alcohol tax revenue. Indian women gained their voice and leadership in the temperance movement, spurred on by the World Women’s Christian Temperance Union. In the 1990s, Indian peasant women got alcohol sales banned from worksites in Andhra Pradesh.15 In 2016 the women of Tamil Nadu, blaming alcohol for domestic abuse, elected a woman who shut down 500 liquor shops her first day in office.16 Indian states that prohibit alcohol sales have significantly lower male alcoholism and less crimes against women.17 But are Christian missionaries continuing to help these Indian women in their reform efforts?

Drug Reform Efforts in China

In China, anti-opium Christian missionaries had reached every province by 1860. One wrote, “(Opium’s) history is a Christian crime, a Christian shame.”18 When opium became epidemic in China, missionaries instituted an extensive international literature campaign, while the opium industry fought back with pro-opium arguments. The Chinese, very anxious about their collective future as a nation and global reputation, finally persuaded England in 1906 to join with them in reducing opium production by 10% per year. I believe the missionary fight against opium opened the hearts of the Chinese people to recognize that God was their father, too. However, progress was not fast enough to avoid revolution.

Convinced that opium was poisoning their nation, the Communist Revolution resorted to massive destruction of crops, execution of dealers and compulsory treatment of 10 million addicts under Mao in the 1950s which virtually eradicated production and consumption of opium in China.19  Replacing their opium crops with tobacco, thought less dangerous at the time, China is approaching 50% of the global tobacco yield, using most of it themselves, killing nearly two million per year but generating $16 billion in tax revenue for the government at the cost of $5 billion in health problems.20

Unfortunately, there has also been a surge of synthetic opioid use in China in the 21st century. In an ironic reversal of history, China has become the leading producer and distributor of illegal fentanyl-type opioid drugs, killing tens of thousands yearly in the West. Starting May 2019, China has added dozens of fentanyl-related drugs to their narcotic control laws to hopefully cut production, trafficking and smuggling from their country, pledging also to “put an end to international drug mafias and their trafficking networks.”21

Losing the Drug War Among the Frontier People Groups of Central and South Asia

With less coming from India and China, opium growing spread elsewhere. Western military forces unfortunately protected and assisted drug lords, first in S.E. Asia (the “Golden Triangle”) to get their help in the fight against communism, and later to get help against terrorism in Central Asia (the “Golden Crescent”).

Today the Christian tribal peoples of Burma/Myanmar have over 100,000 involved in the anti-opium Pat Jasan movement. “All we wanted is to stop poppy production and drug addiction among young people,” said Tang Gun. “We are losing our society and this is why we are campaigning against poppy production.22 They have helped reduce Burmese production of opium to a fraction of what it was previously.

However, during the same period, Afghanistan’s opium production rose from 100 tons annually in the 1970s to 9000 tons by 2015, 93% of the world’s opium. In May 2001 the Taliban had managed to eradicate the opium crop in Afghanistan in one year, dropping world production by 75%,23 but production resurged with US intervention against the Taliban and opium now funds the Taliban.24 Meanwhile, addiction in Pakistan increased from near zero in 1979, to 1.3 million in 1989, to 4.3 million in 200425 with 80% of Pakistani addicts wanting help but unable to afford it.26 Neighboring Iran developed the highest per capita opium addiction in the world, affecting three million people.27 What if believers became the primary helpers in a grassroots effort to rescue these frontier peoples from drugs?

Providing Alternatives to Drugs

Historically, the primary forces of reform against drugs have been outraged citizens acting collectively while educating and persuading society there is a real problem. Many missionaries, evangelicals and other Christians have globally stood against mind-altering, family-destroying substances, and they are often joined by Muslim, Buddhist and other community leaders. However, unless their efforts against drug industries were met with cooperation by governments, progress in reducing the drug industrial complex was short-lived. So alternative sources of income, and alternatives for social recreation, must also be addressed by reformers.

Early on evangelicals saw the need to provide alternatives to drugs. The 18th century revival societies pushed for clean municipal water, so alcohol would not be needed
for water purification. They held large temperance tea parties promoting boiled tea to replace alcohol.28 The rising manufacture and distribution of new non-alcoholic drinks had an impact, especially as soda fountains, tea and coffee shops provided direct competition to bar “hang-outs.”

The YMCA (started in London, 1844) established drugfree temperance youth hostels for youth coming into the cities, complete with housing, Bible studies, sports and healthy entertainment. The need was so great that within just 10 years the YMCA had spread to multiple countries with hundreds of locations. An explosive movement, soon thousands of semi-autonomous YMCA and YWCA (1855) hostels arose in over 100 countries, spreading the gospel, clean living, peace activism and education in moral, social and environmental responsibility. With surges of poor men into the world’s cities today, it is unfortunate that the YMCA has largely given up its hostel ministry. The Salvation Army, however, continues its over 130-year global fight to help the poor and addicts with hostels and/or rehab centers in 90 countries, emphasizing abstinence, clean living, and hard work, including a small network of care centers in Pakistan.29

Action Steps

Drug addictions are increasing alarmingly in Frontier People Groups and around the globe, causing not only large numbers of premature deaths, but poverty, abuse and trafficking of women and children and destruction of families. Many closed countries might welcome believers coming to help families escape the addiction trap. What better way to bring the love of Christ into desperate households, like a light on a lampstand? 

Missionaries arousing public outcry has worked in the past. And today missionaries also need to lead the way in helping narco-economies find alternative income crops or industries, revealing net costs to governments of abetting addiction industries, heading off addictions before they begin through educating the young, drug rehabilitation and fighting public acceptance of the inevitability of “recreational” drug addictions. “Compassionate” drug companies push to normalize addictions, providing drugs to addicts or alcohol to alcoholics, and lobby to decriminalize all drugs, which may empty prisons but offers no hope to families.

Helping families should be our primary goal. But fighting the global drug industries is a crucial part of that. Things missionaries have done to help end addiction epidemics before can still be done: publicizing testimonies of former addicts showing harm caused to them and their families; suing companies for false advertising; exposing statistics of the deaths, injuries, poverty, homelessness, abuse and sexual assaults due to drug and alcohol use; picturing child victims of their parents’ addictions; boycotting industries; exposing the huge profits being made by industries and governments at the expense of their people, and shaming government officials for their collusion.

What cannot continue is apathy toward the number of families and lives being destroyed by ruthless companies marketing addictive substances and ignoring the resulting deaths as inevitable. Missionaries are uniquely positioned for championing the causes of their people groups and helping to rescue them from destructive forces.

  1. 1

  2. 2 Courtwright, David T., Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of
    the Modern World, Harvard University Press, 2002, page 173.

  3. 3 Ibid, page 168.

  4. 4 Smith, Timothy, Revivalism and Social Reform, American
    Protestantism on the Eve of the Civil War, Whipf and Stock
    Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2004. P.5

  5. 5 Hayes, Terrence E.,Tobacco in History and Culture: An
    Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p.362;

  6. 6

  7. 7

  8. 8
    . pdf

  9. 9
    temperance-teachings/ NOTE: Knowledge of
    alcohol’s role in the body was small at the time and both the
    temperance and anti-prohibition forces promoted “scientific”
    facts about alcohol that later proved at least partially untrue.

  10. 10 Estimated Alcoholics and Rate of Alcoholism in the United States,
    1910–1953, Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1955.

  11. 11 August 11, 2017. One in Eight
    American Adults is an Alcoholic.

  12. 12 Levine, H. G. (1984) The alcohol problem in America: from
    temperance to alcoholism. British Journal of Addiction 79, 109–119.

  13. 13
    marijuana/marijuana-addictive, NOTE: These statistics
    do not factor out non-users, such as the 30% of Americans
    that do not drink alcohol and another 20% that take less than
    7 drinks per year, and 20% more who drink less than ½ a drink
    per week. This means that the 12.7% of adults addicted to
    alcohol are actually 42% of the third of adults who drink more
    than 2.17 drinks per week, (if you assume drinking less than that
    would not result in alcoholism).

  14. 14 Fahey, David M. and Padma Manian, “Poverty and Purification:
    The Politics of Gandhi’s Campaign for Prohibition” The Historian
    Vol. 67, No. 3 (FALL 2005), p. 489

  15. 5 Tschurenev, Jana and Harald Fischer-Tine, Indian Anomalies:
    Drink and Drugs in the Land of Gandhi, January 2014
    page 6–7.
    of_gandhi Unfortunately, in India drinking alcohol and eating
    beef is associated with Christianity.

  16. 16 Thekaekara, Mari Marcel (25 May 2016). “Why Tamil Nadu’s
    women want alcohol banned”. The Guardian.

  17. 17 Thekaekara, Mari Marcel (13 November 2017). “Indian women
    are pleading for prohibition”. New Internationalist.

  18. 18 Courtwright, page 182.

  19. 19

  20. 20 (

  21. 21 Beijing Review, April 11, 2019, page 4.

  22. 22

  23. 23

  24. 24

  25. 25

  26. 26

  27. 27

  28. 28 Rappaport, E. (2013). Sacred and Useful Pleasures:
    The Temperance Tea Party and the Creation of a Sober
    Consumer Culture in Early Industrial Britain. Journal of British
    Studies, 52(4), 990-1016. doi:10.1017/jbr.2013.121

  29. 29

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Toward the Edges

Life & Death Issues

Toward the Edges


One of our core values in FV is to live “at the edges”, meaning that, consistent with our heritage of seeking to understand and promote frontier missiology, we intentionally want to pursue the cutting edge between what is and what is not yet.

There are many ways to look at those edges. Of course, our particular “edge” in FV and WCIU is the edge between where the Good News of life in Jesus is known and not yet known, experienced and not yet experienced, transforming lives and communities and not yet transforming lives and communities. That edge includes edges of thinking and imagination, edges of social and cultural distance and edges of spiritual opposition. Thus, I plan to try to highlight how this issue of Mission Frontiers is directing us all toward those edges.

Life and Death Issues

The lead editorial by R. W. Lewis gives an overview of the historic connection between evangelicals, revivals, social transformation and addressing evil. She outlines four specific “death industries” which will, in various ways, be discussed in this issue of MF. I won’t repeat what she says there or try to do my own overview. Instead I want to come to this from a slightly different angle.

Why is MF talking about this?

FV is focused on the least reached. Our vision is tied to seeing movements to Jesus and expressing the fullness of the Kingdom within all peoples. Why is MF giving a whole edition to drugs (including legal ones)? Alcohol? Abortion? 

There is a direct line between the “industries” described here and the frontier peoples.

While not all the articles draw the line as directly as our readers might be looking for, let me describe the line as I see it. And let me use a death industry that is not described in these articles, just by way of illustration.

I lived and worked in South Asia among Muslims. I was involved in an attempt at integrated aqua and agriculture, as a business. We had a real farm with real fish and real crops—and a lot of very real work!

Chemical insecticides and fertilizers initially made a huge difference in crop production and survival, and in the subsequent economic blessing for farms (not farmers, but that is a whole different topic).  However, there was a consequence: increasingly barren soil, depleted of nutrition.

That is a form of death. Pesticide companies and chemical fertilizer companies were (in my context) death industries. And they succeeded because they seemed to work so well.

This disturbed me, so I began to experiment with organic approaches to both fertilizing the soil, so that crops could grow well but the soil could be safe, and also so that in the water the algae eating fish could benefit from protein rich green water. Local people told me about a tree oil that could be used in protecting crops from predator insects.

The farms I either managed or was consulting for were surrounded by villages, in which people from two different unreached people groups lived. This engaged me in almost daily interaction with those villagers, opportunities to share the gospel and pray for people and opportunities to grow in language and culture acquisition. It also seemingly gave the opportunity to bring blessing to these peoples.

I felt that this “green” approach to our farming was full of brilliant ideas and plans, and was a perfect fit for our desire to be a spiritual blessing as well. We had reasonably good execution. But these wonderful things only caught on at my farm, where I controlled the approach and values.

I will come back to this in my third question:

Now what do we do?

Are there other life and death issues?

I am sure you are already assuming I will say yes, based on the above. Of course there are.

Death industries can be overtly in our face, as is the case with most of those highlighted in this issue. But they can also be beguilingly subtle. And the fact is that, in a fallen and broken world, almost every human enterprise has unintended, negative and even deadly, “butterfly effects.”

For example, Is it bad to try to make food convenient to purchase and prepare? I would argue it isn’t. But observe the slippery slope from convenience to fast food and junk food and obesity (arguably an epidemic in the USA in particular.) And we all know the connection between obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and more, as well as the disturbing impact of all of this on our children.

Thus, is the convenience food industry potentially a death industry? What about the automobile?

I don’t mean traffic accidents, but the increasing consumption of fossil fuel, increase of polluted air and the consequential health issues. All of which, if unchecked, are going to kill people.

I see someone raising their hand wanting to ask, again, about the connection of these things to reaching the unreached.

Both of these examples are major exports to the major cities located within the major population centers of the largest unreached and frontier peoples.

A concern for seeing movements to Jesus among them, in which discipleship and obedience to Jesus and the fullness of the promised Abrahamic blessing don’t include a concern for the health impact of such issues, hardly fulfills the great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. In fact, you will notice that within this issue focused on various death industries, we are still including our normal articles dealing with movements to Jesus among the least reached, and disciple multiplication in particular. In a sense this combination incarnates an important point: these two concerns belong together.

Now what do we do?

This is the hardest part, admittedly. And this is perhaps the most challenging aspect of this issue of MF.

If I might be permitted here to take off my FV General Director hat and don my field worker and WCIU

President hats, perhaps I can offer some thoughts.

I won’t comment here on the important role of Jesus’ people in standing against evil and combating the sort of issues outlined in the articles. I would hope that within our own country new organizations and networks might arise, and that repentance in all sorts of forms might take root in deep and profound ways.

I want to address how this might be thought of in the field and from the field. First with my field worker hat on:

If I could transport myself back to our own field contexts again, I would tell myself first to seek to walk alongside those I was hoping to reach, prayerfully listening and seeking together to understand how they saw issues, and which issues they saw, that were counter to the fullness of life and blessing He intends. There might be a whole different take on “death industries” and on which to press against and how and with what resources.

Which leads me to my WCIU hat:

WCIU’s degree is an MA in International Development. Critical to the whole process of development is to work with communities as they identify what issues are the most disturbing and troubling, which solutions seem most compelling, what resources of expertise, experience, skills, advocacy (if they have “voice”), finance, and others. In WCIU’s case it’s to do all this through biblical, historical, and cultural frameworks, which shape strategic action and response.


My hope would be that somehow from this issue of MF there might be two prongs of response.

One might be called the “big system” response. By this I mean the sort of big picture, long term effort at gospel and blessing-rooted reform such as what the earlier evangelical revivals included and which played a great part in the end of the slave trade.

The other might be called the “local system” response that I have tried to describe near the end of this contribution to our discussion. Working down, alongside and in the nitty gritty of day-to-day and person-to-person life “in the field.”

It is the latter which might more directly bear fruit in Jesus movements, expressing the fullness of the kingdom.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Challenging the Death Industries: Duty or Distraction?

Challenging the Death Industries: Duty or Distraction?

Mission Frontiers magazine exists for the purpose of  advancing the kingdom on earth, specifically at the frontiers “where Christ has not been named.” Effective proclamation of the gospel is the guiding principle, so why focus MF issues on poverty, urbanization, or “death industries,” whose products directly cause the deaths of millions? Do these issues distract from MF’s purpose? Or are they crucial to address when considering unrecognized barriers preventing breakthroughs in the remaining least-reached Frontier People Groups? We seek to address these questions in this issue.

Why these “Death Industries”?

Recently the American secular news has reported on epidemics of drug deaths and an increasing struggle over the abortion of children. But news reports do not even begin to reveal the global scope of these kind of problem—the shocking death rates around the world and the power of the global industries behind them.

The “death industries” are a handful of global industries that together directly result in almost two-thirds of global deaths. Yes, two thirds of all deaths every year, and these particular deaths are fully preventable. Having lived on five continents from Latin America to North Africa to India, I have personally seen that millions of people God loves are being dragged down to death by these lucrative industries. 

Unfortunately, missionaries and other believers with no money in the game are often the only ones willing to take a stand  against them. We hope to encourage all believers to repent, pray and have the courage to bring a gospel of both hope and freedom, as has happened in the past. We also hope to galvanize expat evangelical workers to confront issues that cause so much suffering in the people groups they serve and to help families avoid misery and death.

The articles Hunting the Lion and Missionaries vs. the Opium Industry highlight past mission work against death industries, while When Doing Good is Controversial, How to Save a Life, and Hope in a World of Addictions and Sex Trafficking highlight current global mission work against abortion and addictions.

Four articles focus on alerting the church by exposing the global statistics about death causing industries: What’s Killing Us? focuses on the statistics of four main death industries: firearms, tobacco, alcohol and abortion, which is further addressed in The Abortion Industry and the Gospel of Life. Two additional articles cover deaths due to the global drug epidemics, Making a Killing: How Mild Local Drugs became Global Epidemics and Famine, Poverty, and Violence: Three More Ways Drugs Cause Death. One more highlights reform efforts and proposes action steps: The Addiction Industries: Reform Efforts and the Unique Role of Missionaries.

Righting a Wrong-Side-Up World emphasizes the need for the Spirit-led community of believers to engage in this kingdom task. Instead, evangelicals today seem to be losing moral authority by withdrawing from personal and societal transformation, having similar rates of divorce, addiction and even abortion as the world. Taken from a seminar in 2003, in The Puzzling Power of Group Self-Deception Ralph Winter asks, “if we cannot recognize evil in our own cultures, how can we adequately engage in the global kingdom task of wrestling with principalities and powers and rulers of this dark world?” (Eph. 6:12)

How Do People Become Apathetic to the Mass Killing of Human Beings?

Apathy toward mass killing is one result of cultural group self-deception. People can even believe they are doing good, as shown starkly in an interview of a former guard at a Nazi concentration camp. He spoke of the camp directors picnicking with their families on the hills above the camp—upwind so that they did not have to breathe the smoke from the crematoriums where never-ending piles of bodies were burned day and night. Recently, an American private abortion provider mentioned in an interview that her clinic killed over 30,000 babies, but she never thought of them as children until she herself had a late term abortion and regretted it.

In both cases, the people involved thought they were doing good for mankind and saving the planet. The Nazi guards spoke of saving the world from the “insidious menace of the Jewish people and other genetic undesirables.” The abortion clinic owner spoke of saving women from unwanted children and the world from over-population. Both knew they were killing human beings, but thought it was for a good reason. In both cases, few Christians even complained.

But what about the tobacco executives who have known for decades that their addictive product causes millions of deaths per year? Each year they kill as many people as the Nazis killed in their death camps. What is their excuse? The World Health Organization reports they systematically cover up addictions and death because “Nicotine addiction destroys the industry’s PR and legal stance that smoking is a matter of choice.” Today the magic death-industry word is “choice,” exemplified by the global “free to smoke” campaign, and by the abortion industry’s slogan “my body, my choice”—equating abortion with freedom while ignoring better choices that prevent unwanted conception.  Individual people must be free to choose, even if it ends up causing their own deaths or the deaths of others. 

“Death industries” are unique in that they spend billions of dollars on aggressively marketing deadly choices as if they were harmless. They disregard those regretting having been coaxed into an abortion or the years of suffering caused by addictions: deaths, crimes, poverty, domestic violence and disease.

Who will help take down these Goliaths of industry, killing millions? Who will dare to take a stand against them saying, as David said, “I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” 

Historically, missionaries have spread the gospel while simultaneously fighting the Goliaths of their generation, the giants attacking families and communities with no one to oppose them. Ralph Winter wrote about The Future of Evangelicals in Missions in MF in 2007. He emphasized the evangelical heritage of personal transformation coupled with societal transformation.

The latter was eclipsed in the 20th century following the rise of secular utopianism, Darwinian socialism and the “social gospel” which divorced personal heart conversion from societal improvement and stripped out the foundation of transformation.

Ralph Winter hoped that in the 21st century a “fourth evangelical awakening” would result in such a passion for personal transformation that it would once again spark societal  transformation, being the salt in society and the light defeating darkness. John Wesley, a founder of the evangelical movement, famously said, “There is no holiness apart from social holiness,” meaning that holiness, or lack thereof, is always played out in relationships and  community. If we are going to fight these global Goliaths, we need to reclaim a personal transformation that includes societal transformation. The whole world is watching.

  1. “The Truth About the Tobacco Industry in Its Own Words.”

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Year of the Frontier Prayer Calendars September October 2019

Year of the Frontier Prayer Calendars September October 2019

Please see attached .pdf files for the calendars.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

How To Save a Life (or Thousands of Lives)

How To Save a Life  (or Thousands of Lives)

From the Editor: This case study from Zambia is an example of the type of ministry that is badly needed but sorely lacking in the Frontier People Groups of Central, South and Southeast Asia.

In May 2009, more than 400 people gathered in Kitwe, Zambia, for a training conference hosted by LIFE International. As a result, 67 ministries were founded, each with the aim of upholding the value of human life, of all people—people like Joyce.

My mother and father died of AIDS. I was alone. Relatives were picked to adopt me, but soon I was abused. My uncle forced me to have sex. When it was discovered that I was HIV-positive and pregnant, my aunt was so angry. She started punching me and said I was not worthy to live. ‘Just go throw yourself in the river. You are nothing. Just go kill yourself.’ I was chased out of their home like a dog. I was abandoned. I was powerless. I thought, ‘It is better to have this child die.’ It was better for me to die than to live.

Joyce was orphaned, homeless, pregnant, penniless, and HIV-positive. Any one of these factors would lead to despair; all of them would threaten to crush even the strongest person.

In my village there is a very deep and strong river. There is a place where often you hear of people being eaten by crocodiles. I was there, crying near the river. I was thinking of jumping into the river to die. But a woman came. I didn’t even know her name.

Iness had come to the 2009 LIFE International conference with a vision, and she left with the tools she needed to found the Khumi Children’s Village in 2011, an organization dedicated to bringing hope to children who despair of a better life. The center sat near the path to the river, where Iness watched Joyce pass.

Iness followed me up there and held me and said, ‘What are you doing here? This is very dangerous!’ I started crying; I could not even talk. She still just held me. She said, ‘I cannot leave you here. Let me take you to the children of God so you and the baby can survive.’ She brought me to the Khumi Center. I was rescued and I decided to change my mind, to live and to have my baby live.

God became Joyce’s hope, became her refuge and strength, an ever-present help in her time of trouble (Psalm 46:1). Iness joined God in His life-giving outreach to Joyce, and her life—along with the life of her child—was saved.

The day the baby was born I named him Abraham. Now I love this child. I want him to be a man of God. I know that Abraham will grow, with the help of God, to help my country. I was empowered and now I am able to start a business, have a home, and raise my son. I thank God for bringing me to the center. Without it I would be no more.

Holistic life-giving ministries like Khumi Children’s Village recognize the complexity of needs faced by suffering people: spiritual, physical, emotional. Iness didn’t just tell Joyce about Jesus then send her on her way. She cared for her—like the Samaritan on another longago roadside—seeing her need and showing her mercy.

Even though you may not live near a crocodile-infested river, desperate people are passing you each day on their way to an uncertain, possibly even despairing, future. Lives are being devalued in your neighborhood, in your city, and in your nation.

On which path has God placed you?

Who will be your Joyce?

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Do Short-Term Teams and Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) Mix?

Do Short-Term Teams and Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) Mix?

“I see waves of young people spreading the gospel across the whole world,” said Youth With a Mission’s visionary pioneer, Loren Cunningham.  In 1960 when he said this, the concept of short-term missions was revolutionary. Many thought the idea at best, naïve, and at worst, destructive. In that era, missions were only done by longterm workers who dedicated their entire careers to serving as missionaries. What could young people do? “Much damage!” thought many experienced field practitioners.

This vision, however, was from the Lord. Loren walked forward in persistent faith and obedience. He rallied youth from around the world to answer God’s call to the nations. As short-term missions gained both popularity and credibility, other agencies also began programs to send young people into the world’s harvest fields.

Today, Youth With a Mission (YWAM) has grown into a large missions movement with tens of thousands of long-term staff working in thousands of teams in over 1,000 locations. YWAM workers come from nearly every country in the world, including places like Indonesia, Nepal, Mozambique and Colombia.

Many of those missionaries (we call ourselves YWAMers) today serve as career missionaries. We are also not so young anymore! In addition to lots of youth, there are now many grey heads among us.

YWAM Frontier Missions Begins

In the mid-1980s, a group within YWAM felt led by the Lord to pioneer a specific emphasis within the broadbased mission to intentionally focus on planting churches among unreached peoples. This part of YWAM became known as YWAM Frontier Missions (YWAM-FM).

For YWAM-FM staff, we recognize short-term missions as a big part of our broader mission’s ethos. With our specific focus on starting DMMs, we are often faced with the question of what to do with short-term teams. Can teams make a positive contribution to starting a Disciple Making Movement? Or will they hinder the emerging of sustainable indigenous movements? Not a Unique Question

This question is not unique to YWAM’s Frontier Mission field workers. In today’s mission scenario, many supporting churches expect to send short-term teams to help. Receiving teams, from time to time, can feel necessary to ensure that supporting churches continue to invest in our ministries.

We must carefully weigh the risks and benefits of bringing short-term teams into an area where we are attempting to launch a Disciple Making Movement. There are indeed risks. But there are also benefits both for the receiving workers and the team that comes. To reap these benefits, there must be careful team preparation as well as buy-in to the broader DMM vision and values.

Disasters, Distractions and Financial Issues

When we lived in South Asia, many, many short-term teams came. Where we were living attracted teams due to its beautiful mountains, rugged landscape and warm people. In the 1990s we (YWAM in that country) had a full-time person who facilitated the many, many teams that would come. Operation Mobilization (OM) did something similar. We were flooded with foreign young people wanting to make a contribution.

It was good…and it was bad. Long-term workers who were trying to focus on discipling new believers were continually pulled away from that work to care for the needs of cross-cultural “newbies.” Though attempts were made to give orientation, cultural mistakes were made. Crisis situations including accidents, and even deaths of short-term team members, took much time and energy from the long-term staff.

I remember one team that came. They strongly believed they should go and share the gospel in front of a significant religious monument. They were insensitive to the culture and norms. This angered locals, creating rather than removing barriers to the gospel. We were glad to see them go when they finally boarded the plane home! There were other issues too.

Some of our local staff who spoke English well were recruited to help the teams. It became known among the South Asian staff that if you needed support, the answer was to host a foreign team. “Having them come may or may not be helpful to the work,” it was thought. “But it will allow you the opportunity to build relationships with those who might give you money.” Unhealthy dependency was often the result of having foreign teams. A Better Question

These things were sad to watch. Teams sacrificed greatly to come work among the unreached. They raised money, traveled far, made great sacrifices and came hoping to make a significant contribution.

A few days ago, while running a webinar on Disciple Making Movements, I was asked a question. “Can shortterm teams start a Disciple Making Movement (DMM)?” It was immediately apparent to me that the person asking had only a shallow understanding of what a DMM was. Otherwise, the answer would be obvious.

A Disciple Making Movement is something that (while growing rapidly) takes a significant long-term commitment. It requires years of sacrifice and investment. An absolute minimum commitment of two or three years is needed, and for many places where DMMs happen, those who start them invest for their entire lives.

It was a worthy question though, and I think I understood the heart behind it. A better question would have been, “How can a short-term team assist and contribute to the starting of a Disciple Making Movement?”

Four Much Needed Gifts Short-Term Teams Bring

There are some wonderful things that short-term workers can contribute. Long-term field workers must be careful not to be too cynical and miss out on these wonderful blessings.

1. Faith

Short-term teams come with fresh faith and courage. They have been praying and preparing. The team is expectant that God will work powerfully. A fresh injection of faith to discouraged workers in hard places can make a big difference! They may have been laboring for years without fruit or breakthrough. Instead of calling the short-termers naïve, receive and feed off of their enthusiasm and God-given faith.

2. Boldness

Young people and teams in general, can be quite bold. Granted, sometimes they are too bold for the liking of long-termers. They can make us feel uncomfortable. Yes, they do need orientation, but bold witness is a vital characteristic of a Disciple Making Movement. Encourage and make room for them to be courageous in witnessing, in praying for the sick and in asking God to bring a breakthrough in your area.

3. Enthusiasm and Energy

Weariness is common for long-term workers in difficult places. Daily living can take its toll and missionary life in the frontiers can be quite grueling. Again, allow the team’s enthusiasm to ignite you rather than repulse you. Years ago, you too had that same enthusiasm and energy. Invite them to pray over you and minister to you. Let them refresh your spirit. Don’t be cynical or critical of their excitement.

4. Man-power

Abundant gospel-sowing and extra-ordinary prayer strategies require many people. Take advantage of the freely available man-power of short-term volunteers. Let them go into new places where you haven’t had time to go. Let them do prayer walks, distribute literature and Bibles (if appropriate) and get the gospel out! It is often helpful to give teams a combination of things to do.

Three Strategic Activities Short-Term Teams Can Effectively Help With

1. Prayer

Teams can come alongside missionaries who are trying to start a movement by helping with prayer saturation. Several long-term DMM focused teams in India use shortterm teams very effectively this way. They train the teams to engage in prayer, intercession, spiritual warfare and worship. The impact of these teams has been tremendous! They have helped to break up the hard spiritual ground so the seeds of the gospel can be sown. After the team leaves, be sure to invite those short termers to become key intercessors who will regularly pray for a breakthrough in your area.

2. One-on-One Evangelism

Language is an important factor. Much depends on whether the team can communicate with the people you are trying to reach. One option is to utilize translators. Another good strategy is to use short indigenous evangelistic films the team can put on their smartphones. When they meet someone who seems open, they can offer to show that person a short film in their own language. These types of films are available for free download at in many languages.

If the short-termers speak the language, they can help you sow the gospel seeds in an even more abundant way. Send them out, as Jesus did, in pairs of two or three people to share their testimony, pray for the sick and look for receptive people who are open to hearing more about Jesus.

While foreigners are good at attracting a crowd, this can be counter-productive in sensitive areas. It may reinforce a negative understanding of the gospel as a “foreigner’s religion.” We generally discourage openair and street meetings where dramas, songs and other “shows” attract crowds. This may be appropriate in some places but in many unreached and resistant areas it can cause unhelpful attention. It highlights what you are doing and can even result in unnecessary persecution after the team has gone. Instead, encourage teams to look for ways to have real conversations with people one-on-one or in smaller groups.

3.  Finding Persons of Peace and Starting New Groups

As they share their testimonies or gospel stories, God may use the team to reveal the Person of Peace in a community. Be sure to train the team in what to do with someone who seems open; how to offer to start a discovery or story group with them, and how to follow up. Then, be ready, after the team goes, to continue to meet with those people.

Three things Short-Term Teams Should Avoid

If you are a field worker, you may want to pre- discuss the following things before welcoming a team. Most teams will look to you to give adequate orientation and they will follow your lead (if you communicate clearly ahead of time.)

1.  Avoid Doing Anything that Will Not Be Reproducible

Avoid bringing in evangelism or community development tools that will not be easy to obtain after you leave. Tent crusades, expensive bands and outside equipment are all a risk to the movement’s DNA.

2.  Avoid Funding Projects with Outside Money

It has become very popular for outside teams to fund projects like buildings, wells, clinics, etc.

While you may have good intentions, these kinds of projects often create an unhealthy dependency rather than local ownership. It hampers sustainability and reproducibility in the future. If, after you go, those things cannot be carried on by the local people themselves then you may unintentionally be causing harm. 

3.  Avoid Coming in as Experts Instead of Learners

Many short-term teams come with a God-complex. They believe God has sent them to “save the heathens” or something equivalent to that. As the team prepares, be sure to help those coming to see themselves not as saviors, but as learners and guests in a new environment.

Four Key Ways That Teams Can Prepare

Jean Johnson, who contributes to this magazine and is the Director of Five Stones Global, has an excellent book called Go Light! Go Local! A Conscientious Approach to Short-Term Missions (available on Amazon). This book does a fantastic job of preparing teams who want to work in an effective way. I highly recommend it for a fuller treatment of this important topic. Let me just give you a few things to consider to get you started.

1. Could You Leave Someone Behind?

Consider either working with someone on the ground who has a DMM vision already, or being prepared to leave people behind to follow up. From the team’s first pre-trip meeting, sow the seed of responding to God’s call to not just go, but to stay (or come back). Make a commitment as a team that if you see a response, someone from among you will stay back to continue to disciple those who come to faith.

2. Embrace a Long-term Mindset and Vision

You may be short-term in your time commitment, but be long-term in your mindset. See yourself as part of the bigger picture of what God is doing in that area. Make your contribution to that bigger picture well. Don’t isolate what you are doing from what God did before you came and will be doing after you go.

3. Return and Repeat

Consider sending several teams over several years to the same location, rather than going to a different place each time. If there is consistency and the same team leaders return for each trip, the team has a much better chance of growing, learning and building strong relationships with the field workers and local people. Ultimately they will have a much better impact.

4. Practice at Home First

Be sure to practice DMM activities in your home country first rather than experimenting on people cross-culturally. If the people on your team have never shared their testimony or used an evangelism approach like the 3 Circles in their own city, what makes you think they can do that effectively through a translator? Build into the team’s preparation time opportunities for prayer walks, evangelism and sharing Bible stories in their own context.

Consider Saying “Yes”

For those who are wanting to launch Disciple Making Movements, don’t be afraid of short-term teams. You may not want to have them coming every month, but when you have an opportunity to partner with someone who wants to send people short-term, consider saying “yes.” That group of crazy, young, bold foreigners could end up being the catalyst for a breakthrough. As farfetched as it may sound, God delights in doing just those kinds of things through those who step out in faith and obedience.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

The Bride

The Bride

What would you think if you heard people making fun of a bride? Imagine they were detailing her failures…and this was happening years after she got married! Her husband dearly loves his bride. He can see her shortcomings too, better than anyone else, but he loves her so profoundly that he is willing to do anything for her—even give his life—like many husbands would (we would hope).

You probably figured out that I’m talking about the bride of Christ— His body, the Church. We know many amazing truths about this from the N.T. A few that are important for my point today, including:

  • The Church has local, regional and global implications.
  • The Church is not specifically clearly “defined” in the N.T. Rather, it is expressed in several ways with several Greek words.I urge you to study Romans 16 and look into the Greek words to see the range of meaning from fellowships in homes to the church in the region.
  • It can be confusing to grapple with the difference between the local expressions and the regional or global body of Christ.
  • We do know that a key part of the Church is to be light and salt —both to the rest of the body and to the world.
  • There is much more that could be said. Indeed, the concept of the body of Christ is a foundational biblical study, both the N.T., historically and globally today.

I want to focus on how we talk about the Church. I have written before about a pattern in the history of the Church—that some believe they are more committed than others—which often results in the “serious” smaller groups spinning off to start a new group that they feel is more in line with what God is calling them to.

The problem comes when we turn our understanding about what we believe God is calling His Church to and start judging others—especially for those of us with a global focus. I understand first-hand the passion that mobilizers have, which can sometimes move us to being judgmental. Do you go into church each week wishing people were more committed to reaching the unreached peoples of the world? I do, and that is OK. Pastors also want their people to be more committed.

The question is what do I do with that? Do I critique and teach and lead people toward a globally aware vision? Or do I judge? I confess, I have to watch my heart when I “switch” from full-time ministry at Frontier Ventures to my involvement as an elder at my church or with any local church.

Sometimes this kind of passion causes us to call for a new model of how to do fellowship as the body of Christ locally. Some have left their local churches out of frustration.

Actually, I don’t have a problem with  calling for and starting a new approach. The “way” we do church needs to be evaluated, as I have said many times. New approaches should be tried to reach new cultures and generations. But we do not have to put down what others are doing in order to argue for our new model. When we do, we are acting like the world does today when it argues political opinions.

We need to remember all valid N.T. expressions are the bride of Christ—right now—imperfect as we are. He is the head of the body, not us. He is sovereign, not us. He is leading His Church and is also in charge of the timing! I have begun to wonder about some of our mobilization approaches. For example, there are those who say, “It’s been over 2,000 years and there are still people who haven’t heard.” I get the point. It breaks my heart that so many have not heard a clear message about Christ, that is why I’ve been on Frontier Ventures staff for 38 years! Successive generations go into a Christ-less eternity among the unreached. But we must learn to balance resting in Jesus’ timing, even as we challenge everyone we can to press forward in the task He has given us.

If you are casting vision for a new kind of church or ministry, focus on your vision for it and what you are doing about it. Call people to that, not what you are “against.”


  1. 1 The word church is from the German, kirche, not N.T. Greek. A very interesting church history story to see how that idea influenced what the church is, in Europe, making it much more formal and “institutional.” This influences “how” we do church today. There is an entire issue of the IJFM on oikos, which you can download for free at: www. IJFM_34_1-4-EntireIssue.pdf

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Making a Killing

How Mild Local Drugs Became Global Epidemics

Making a Killing

Click on PDF link to see print version with additional charts, graphs and graphics

Unfortunately, merchants of death have reached the remaining Frontier People Groups before any missionaries. Deadly practices among unreached tribes are not new, such as feuding, infanticide, and cannibalism; however, finding the people groups already crippled and dying due to lucrative international drug industries only began in the 19th century.

Realizing that addiction is a major barrier to successfully discipling people in the Lord, evangelical missionaries fought against these death industries for 100 years (1820– 1920) and evangelical believers became globally known for clean living. But powerful modern drugs are spreading again at an unprecedented rate with significantly less resistance from the missionary and church communities. So drug profits and global addiction epidemics soar. “The drive to maximize profit—individual, corporate and state—underlay the explosive global increase in drug use,” wrote David Courtwright in Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World.1

But how did the drug industries create a global explosion of addictive drug use, both legal and illegal, killing millions annually? Relatively mild addictive drugs have been locally available for centuries. However, there was no means of mass production or distribution and abuse was neither affordable nor acceptable. As relatively mild local drugs became concentrated, mass produced and globally distributed, they became more profitable. Powerful drug industries arose and invested in propaganda to change public perception of the use of addictive drugs from reprehensible to recreational and respectable. Increasingly they are concentrating their efforts on Asia, where 25% of the world’s population that are Frontier People Groups mainly live.

Over the last 200–300 years, four components of drug epidemics have come together in a perfect storm: availability, affordability, acceptability and addictability. The drug industries have been diligently increasing all four components using global manufacturing and distribution, mass media propaganda, spurious denials of harm and development of increasingly concentrated and habit-forming drugs. The industrial, transportation and chemical revolutions have made this possible.

TOBACCO: 300 Years of Denial

Because it does not cause intoxication, deaths due to tobacco were invisible to even missionaries for over 100 years. Now it is clear that of all of the addictive drug industries, tobacco causes the most deaths globally, and after abortion is the leading cause of preventable deaths. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco causes more than eight million deaths per year worldwide and brings serious illness to 30 times as many people.2 In the USA, where tobacco use has been declining, tobacco is still responsible for 40% of cancer deaths3 and 20% of all deaths.4 The CDC notes that “In 2017, $9.36 billion was spent on advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco combined—more than $1 million every hour,” adding that smoking costs the USA $300 billion per year, or $34 million per hour.5  Meanwhile, WHO tries to beat the global tobacco epidemic with laws that merely list warnings and promote smoke-free spaces!6

The Native American tribes discovered the addictive stimulation of tobacco, but the British colonists were the first to grow huge fields and figure out how to effectively dry and ship it to an ever-expanding global market. Since then, a series of factors have contributed to tobacco use becoming a worldwide epidemic.  First, slave labor made both the crop and production affordable, followed by the cigarette-rolling machine invented in the 1880s. The invention of matches in 1900 made use easier and cigarette vending machines in the 1920s greatly increased availability, along with railways, powered ships and airplanes. Acceptability became widespread through advertising, fundraising to donate cigarettes to allied troops and Hollywood movies glamorizing smoking for men and women.7

Despite increasing evidence in the first half of the 20th century that cancer of the mouth and lungs resulted from smoking cigarettes and tobacco chewing, global consumption of cigarettes continued to climb.8  The tobacco industry refused to concede the reality of tobacco hazards until the late 1990s. Instead, the industry sought to target physicians and others with its message of “no proof,” using subtle techniques of deception, including the funding of spurious research, duplicitous press releases, propaganda efforts directed at physicians and the employment of historians to construct exculpatory narratives.9  It was not until 1996 that the tobacco industry executives admitted that tobacco was even addictive, much less dangerous!

A pattern of willful deception is seen in all of the industries profiting from addictive drugs.

The tobacco industry is concentrated in a handful of large companies who cover up the fact that their product causes 15% of all male deaths and 7% of all female deaths globally.10  Despite setbacks in some countries, the 500 billion dollar tobacco industry continues to expand with impunity, increasing production by 16% in the last decade.11

Unfortunately, while evangelicals have opposed the spending of resources on addictive tobacco, very few missionaries have realized the full danger of smoking enough to oppose it. As Ralph Winter wrote,

     When the Bible does not speak about a specific problem, such as the U.S. pushing off cigarettes on the whole world, then theology should come to the rescue to make           application of Biblical truth to the new circumstances. Again, it was not a theologian but the World Health Organization that pointed out that the U.S. kills more people in         the country of Colombia by our government-subsidized nicotinelaced cigarettes than are killed in the U.S. by hard drugs from all foreign sources put together. What does       the Bible want us to think and do about this?12

ALCOHOL: From Helpful to Harmful

In the mid-1700s a missionary named David Brainard walked from tribe to tribe in New England seeking to share the gospel. Everywhere he went the Indians were drunk almost every day, so much so that he often despaired of talking to them. Finally communicating to one tribe that God loved them and wanted to deliver them from alcohol, the tribe wept for days, both in sorrow for their people and in hope of deliverance. God answered their prayers and Brainard writes of their amazing transformation:

A principle of honesty and justice appears in many of them, and they seem concerned to discharge their old debts, which they have neglected….Their manner of living is much more decent and comfortable than formerly, having now the benefit of that money which they used to consume upon strong drink. Love seems to reign among them…they rejoice with joy unspeakable.13

But Brainard began to receive intense opposition from the colonists who depended on the addiction of the Indians to trade rum for furs. In helping unreached people groups escape addiction today, missionaries should also expect intense opposition.

However, believing Native American tribes created “sobriety circles” in the 1750s led by tribal leaders, 150 years before Alcoholics Anonymous.

Recovery circles and abstinence-based cultural movements included the Delaware prophet movements, the Christian Indian revivalists who used their own lives as proof Christian conversion and worship could cure alcoholism, the Shawnee Prophet and Kickapoo Prophet movements, Indian temperance societies, the Indian Shaker Church, and the Native American Church.14

When older Christian denominations (pre-18th century) were formed, common alcoholic beverages were quite weak, produced through natural fermentation. However, they became deadly when machines for mass distillation were invented. Until 1600, diluted wine or beer with 1% to 5% alcohol were commonly consumed in Europe and helped to sterilize polluted water. The maximum “strong drink” through natural fermentation was 14% alcohol.

But the Industrial Revolution changed all that. By the mid-17th century distilleries sprang up in Europe, Britain and the New World colonies, mass-producing distilled alcohol from sugar and grain with 30% to 50% alcohol. American colonists not only decimated Native American tribes by trading rum for furs, they used rum to buy slaves from the African tribes resulting in widespread addiction, poverty, sickness and death in Africa, too.

Gin became so popular in London that it caused an epidemic of social disintegration. In the first half of the 1700s, annual production of spirits in England went from 500,000 gallons to 11 million gallons.15 England attempted to cut alcohol consumption with taxes and regulation, but without much success. As an unfortunate side effect, the government became dependent on alcohol tax revenue. As increasingly efficient distilling machines increased addictiveness, the global transportation revolution of the 19th century made concentrated alcohol ever more widely available and affordable.

Societal acceptance or rejection is a key factor in drug and alcohol abuse. Only the Evangelical Awakening’s opposition to spirits and promotion of tea instead helped to rein in England’s “gin craze” epidemic in the 18th century. The Awakening was not so much a revival of religion as a revival of focus on godliness and holiness in the life of committed believers. It is admitted that Wesley changed the spirit of the age in which he lived. It is impossible to estimate the magnitude of that change unless we form some idea of the condition of England at the time when the great evangelist did his revolutionary work.16  Every wide-spread revival of evangelical faith in the USA since then has opposed the use of drugs and alcohol. For 200 years, evangelical missionaries took abstinence to a global level, helping countless tribes struggling with drug and alcohol addictions.

The Alcohol Industry Fights Back

However, the alcohol industry has fought back with an extensive propaganda campaign to glamorize and normalize recreational alcohol consumption in movies and media, even during Prohibition in the US (1920-33).  They pushed acceptability while simultaneously increasing affordability and availability. So today, instead of buying alcohol only by the expensive glass or shot in bars, people buy inexpensive quarts and multi-packs in supermarkets and corner stores and take them home. Movies have progressively normalized drinking after work, at family and sports events and even normalized binge drinking for fun. One out of six adults binge drinks at least four times a month, according to the CDC,17 or 40% of those who drink, globally.18

Since 1900, alcohol has gone from a justified reputation of ruining people’s health, lives and families to the glamorous position of being the foremost recreational drug on the planet through relentless media propaganda and cover ups. Alcohol is arguably the most destructive and most lucrative drug on the planet, killing over three million directly but doing far more damage to the health, relationships, families and communities than any other drug including tobacco. The global alcohol industry brings in $1.5 trillion annually.19

Muslim people groups are somewhat protected from alcohol by the prohibition in the Qur’an, but most Muslim countries do not ban alcohol. Pakistan, who bans it for Muslims, has an increasing alcohol problem, even among the young.20  The British set up the first modern alcohol distillation factories in India and Pakistan (1860), and three of the largest tax-paying companies in Pakistan are alcohol industries.21

Every slum in the world reveals alcohol’s devastation to families. Data on alcohol’s harm is widely available but largely ignored. A study of 195 countries concluded that alcohol directly kills 10% of all adults aged 15-49.22  Death rates are actually much higher for drinkers since only 38% of the global population drinks alcohol.23

Additionally, alcohol is causally implicated in 60 more diseases and a factor in 200 other diseases24 (causing 5.8% of all cancers, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, 201725). Alcohol is also known to be a significant factor in crime, domestic violence, child abuse and divorce.

Without any remaining visible opposition from missionaries or churches, the alcohol industry markets alcohol with impunity. Now it also profits from alcohol addiction treatment programs. Along with private providers, the treatment industry earns close to 35 billion dollars in the USA alone, with less than a 5-10% cure rate.26  Unfortunately, the lives of addicts are often permanently damaged even if they become sober, and most of those who die from alcohol-related causes never considered themselves “alcoholics.” 

From OPIUM Wars to OPIOID Epidemics

Today Frontier People Groups are heavily involved in opium and heroin production, including terrorist groups. According to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, global opium production increased by 65% in ONE year, from 2016 to 2017, reaching 10,500 metric tons ($1.6 billion), the highest on record, with 9000 alone coming from Afghanistan.27 For comparison, at its height, British merchants shipped 6000 metric tons of opium per year just to China (c. 1880).28

 Having learned that addictive drugs are a lucrative way to ensure continued markets and to balance trade, 17th century British merchants introduced China to smoking, first of tobacco and later of opium. In the name of “free trade” the British fought two opium wars to block Chinese attempts to stop their illegal smuggling of opium into China! In the 1830s before the Opium Wars an estimated three million Chinese were addicted to opium, but after forcing legalization (1880) that number climbed to approximately 15 million by 1890 and 21 million by 1906.29 Opium was destroying Chinese families as addicts would even sell their wives and children to purchase more. Missionaries to China fought for over 100 years to help end the opium epidemic.

Meanwhile, opium was spreading in more addictive forms. Morphine, first distilled from opium in 1803, was easier to transport and ten times stronger than opium. Touted as a medical treatment for opium addiction, Western doctors were also thrilled with its pain alleviating properties, assuring acceptability. An estimated 400,000 soldiers in the American Civil War became addicted,30 triggering an epidemic in America. Opium became the cure-all which essentially cured nothing but masked all forms of pain, even in children. The accidental addictions of the 19th century later became industry-marketed addictions in the 20th century through pharmaceutical opioids.31

Thanks to the work of 19th century missionaries, temperance societies and churches in America, opium use is less widespread today and still illegal; however, opium has developed extreme concentrations and more synthesized forms than any other drug. As a result, the deaths due to opium/opioids, are due to overdoses not drug-induced diseases.

Heroin, 30 times stronger than opium, was invented by Bayer (c.1900), and first prescribed to cure morphine addiction. But it proved even more addictive, especially when injected with the newly invented syringe, and quickly became a serious global problem.32

Next, strong synthetic opioid pain killers, products of the chemical-drug revolution, became widely available (such as Demerol, Tramadol and Vicodin). Legally marketed through doctors who were falsely assured they were not very addictive, by 1998 OxyContin ushered in the modern opioid epidemic. Making over $25 billion on just opioids in 2018, pharmaceutical companies have continued to invent and market new opioids many times stronger than natural morphine (see graph on pdf version). 33 By 2010 over 13 million people were addicted to opioids and opium derivatives worldwide, despite the fact they were highly controlled.34

Opioid addictions are not only lethal but horrific for family members. However, so far deaths due to illegal drugs pale in comparison to the deaths caused by tobacco and alcohol, with the UN reporting global overdose deaths due to the majority of trafficked drugs (including opioids, cocaine, amphetamines, sedatives, marijuana, ecstasy) running a mere 190,000 (to 250,000).35 Most opiate deaths are overdose related, 118,000 per year—78,000 of those in the USA.36  Global deaths due to illegal drug use climb to 450,000 if you include deaths due to HIV and Hep C transferred by non-sterile syringes.37 Illegal use of legal synthetic opioids are fueling the modern epidemic.

Addictive PHARMACEUTICALS: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing?

Missionaries have traditionally been on the side of pharmaceutical drugs, which have saved lives and alleviated pain. And no one can deny the great help to mankind of pain-killing opioids, along with many other pharmaceutical drugs. But recently pharmaceutical companies are being called to account for their reckless over-production and relentless promotion of opioids and other addictive drugs. In many developing countries, these can be easily bought without a prescription from multiple pharmacies and doctors who are quick to drugs for every ailment with no apparent awareness of interaction dangers.

Millions of people worldwide have become addicted to doctor-prescribed medications, some moving on to illegal drugs. Western drug companies lead the way with ever younger children being prescribed addictive medications. In the USA, as of 2017, over 100,000 children under the age of one are on psychotropic medications and over 500,000 under the age of five.38

In addition to opioids, the pharmaceutical companies also produce hundreds of other addictive mind-altering drugs, including tranquilizers, sedatives, anti-depressants and stimulants. These are intended for lifetime use and are often mixed in “cocktails” of untested combinations when one drug proves ineffective, especially lethal when combined with alcohol.39

In 2015, the total number of individual prescription medications filled at pharmacies was just over four billion. That’s nearly 13 prescriptions for every man, woman and child in the United States, according to the 2015 census. It’s little wonder that overdose deaths caused by prescription medication have taken off to such a degree.40

Prescription drugs are now the third leading cause of death in America and Europe, after cancer and heart disease, totaling nearly 400,000 per year41  (tobacco and alcohol were not included in the study). Increasingly deaths of those on medical prescriptions are viewed as unavoidable and therefore acceptable because, unlike other drugs, prescribed drugs are considered necessary, not recreational.

Pharmaceutical companies, like drug inventors in the past, regularly invent and market new miracle drugs as safe and healthy without adequate testing for difficulties in withdrawal. Most shocking is the exponential growth of new psychoactive substances (NPS), with the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report of 2017 showing between 2009 and 2016 there were 739 new psychoactive substances created.42

The pharmaceutical industry is rapidly spreading its drugs around the globe, making them available and affordable in even the poorest nations. One study of 500 products from 150 drug companies showed they regularly market drugs to the third world by grossly overstating their benefits and obscuring dangers.43  It is extremely profitable to treat but not cure illnesses, requiring lifetime-use of drugs and putting heavy financial loads on families. Alarmingly, there is a higher death rate in areas with the most prescription drug advertising.44

Who will call the pharmaceutical companies to account? Today the pharmaceutical industries control public perception by heavy advertising through mass media. Their money ensures that the news sources do not publish anything against their products. Despite rare fines for deceptive advertising, their tactics continue. Drug companies lobby for government funding of prescription drugs which will increase affordability, acceptability and availability. The global pharmaceutical industry revenues have reached 1 trillion dollars per year, with a 5.8% annual increase.45

Will Legalizing MARIJUANA Help?

Opioid addiction is so quick and strong that historically other drugs have been proposed to help people escape the addiction without success. The latest drug to enter this cycle is marijuana, with a low chance of death by overdose.

Causing an intoxication that is distinct from alcohol, marijuana has been used for centuries by Frontier People Groups in India and Muslim countries with a reputation of sometimes triggering psychotic episodes, paranoia and schizophrenia. These reports were long questioned but finally statistically verified by a number of recent rigorous studies done in Sweden, Holland, New Zealand, Australia and Britain. “The scientists estimated that cannabis use might be responsible for as much as half of the serious psychosis in previously healthy adults,” after controlling for many factors including the use of other drugs.46 Also, multiple recent studies in peer-reviewed psychiatric journals link repeated cannabis use, especially by teens, with development of permanent psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia that are independent of genetic factors.47

But, has medical marijuana saved people from opioid addiction as hoped? After some first hopeful studies by pro-legalization scientists, by “July of 2017 the Journal of Opioid Management found that cannabis laws were associated with a 22 percent increase in age-adjusted opioid-related mortality between 2011 and 2014. Worse, mortality increased as time passed.”48 The death rate from opioids in the USA is now triple that of the UK, though it used to be the same in 2000. The UK did not legalize marijuana, even for medical purposes, but many states in the USA did.49 So while marijuana legalization itself may not be causing many deaths, it is certainly not preventing deaths by opioids.

Legalization Increases Addiction, Epidemics and Deaths

Some Christians wonder if legalization will help stem the drug problem here and abroad. Legalization has a number of proponents. Legalization of illegal drugs makes drug production and sales more transparent, taxable and profitable to governments and reduces enforcement costs. It also puts crime based illegal drug cartels in direct competition with legal drug industries, making it more difficult for them to stay in business. People thrown in prison for drug trafficking and possession could be released. Some also argue that people will use drugs anyway, but if they are made legal, they will use them in safer ways or in safer company.

Many of the Frontier People Groups live in countries that partially or completely ban some drugs, like alcohol or opium, though most have robust black markets going. The West has vacillated between banning and legalizing addictive substances. Let’s look at the results of legalization:

Legalization Greatly Increases the Four Factors

Four factors were crucial to turning a mild local drug into a powerful global addictive money-maker: availability, affordability, acceptability and addictability. Legalization greatly increases all four factors as well as the power and profitability of the related drug industries, which greatly expand. Also, governments, now profiting through taxation, have little motivation to stem the tide or expose any problems. Media, movies, ads and campaigns for legalization all try to romanticize and normalize usage. Once legal, advertising becomes ubiquitous. People assume it is relatively safe and so it becomes a socially acceptable form of recreation or coping with life. For example, 1960s movies successfully normalized binge drinking for (under legal drinking age) students, especially during spring break; however, as a result the annual death rate just during spring break became 1800 US students, with 600,000 injured and 100,000 sexually assaulted. Though most are under the legal drinking age, some 40% of college students regularly binge drink, demanding it as a right. Trying to educate students instead of enforcing the legal-drinking-age laws has totally failed.50

Legalization also makes drugs more available and affordable. Legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol are sold in multiple outlets on every corner. Opioids are dispensed from many local pharmacies. The legal drug industries entice young people into lifetime use by marketing cheap and fun versions of alcohol and tobacco, and now marijuana, even though it is illegal for young people to use these drugs. Candy and cookie flavored e-cigarettes, “vaping,” and nicotine-containing e-liquids have proven very popular among middle and high school students and start them on the nicotine addiction path, by design, while being promoted as safer.51

Legalizing a formerly illegal drug, like marijuana, has made young people see it as safer and significantly increased their usage, even though it was still illegal for them.52 The false perception that marijuana has “no risk of harm” has gone up 270% since states began legalizing medical marijuana according to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime.53 Well-funded marijuana advocacy groups used deception to persuade the US public to legalize “medical use” of marijuana, though it was never approved by the FDA and many studies failed to show any medical benefit. “Medical use cards” now allow unlimited purchases at marijuana dispensaries, without even a specified disease, unlike any other prescription drug. Partial and full legalization has resulted in doubling the usage rate of marijuana54 and creating an 80 billion dollar business,55 but it has not diminished illegal production or the crime associated with marijuana.56 Predictably, plants with increasingly concentrated amounts of the psychotropic THC have been bred (pre-1990 2-4% THC and now 20-30% THC).57 And more concentrated forms of the THC drug are being invented with no control over dosage. 100% THC tinctures, powerful edibles including “candies,” and odorless vaping are now more socially acceptable than smoking.

Legalization Promotes Invention of More Addictive Drugs

Legalization motivates the industries to invent even more addictive drugs, as lifetime use is highly profitable. Since the early 20th century, chemical and pharmaceutical companies have led the way in inventing and patenting thousands of new addictive synthetic drugs as well as strengthening existing ones. But earlier reform movements quickly found out that concentrated addictive substances cannot be used in moderation by most people. Nevertheless, the medical establishment is increasingly referring to “use disorders” rather than “addictive substances,” putting the blame on the person’s habits rather than the drug, though they are increasingly designed for addiction. But after decades of trying, research has found no personality traits consistently associated with addicts nor abstainers.58

The only consistent predictors of drug epidemics are the four factors: availability, affordability, acceptability, and addictability, which lead to trying the drug and beginning regular use—and the inevitable rewiring of our brain to need that repeated pleasure stimulation. David Courtwright points out that organized opposition is the only thing that has worked to expose and reign in the industrial purveyors of addiction, in his 2019 book Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business, including things like gambling and pornography.

Black Markets and Crimes Continue After Legalization

 Addictive drugs are not subject to usual market forces because addicts will do anything to get their next dose. So black marketing of drugs is not eliminated by legalization
either. Concentrated drugs are cheaper and easier to transport illegally. Vast amounts of pharmaceutical drugs end up on the black market, bypassing the legal controls, greatly increasing the sales of the pharmaceutical companies who ignore the problem.59 Legalizing drugs only makes formerly illegal drug-pushing safer and easier and  fuels illegal distribution to avoid taxes. Crime is not reduced by legalization because most crimes committed in relation to drugs are due to being under the influence, and these crimes increase after legalization because usage increases.60

Industry-backed Solutions Avoid Abstinence

Modern solutions proposed by some, especially the drug companies, have given up the goal of keeping people off drugs entirely. Instead they propose things that have already failed in history, for example: making supposedly less addictive opioids widely available; setting up “safe” drug consumption sites; legalizing less dangerous drugs, even though they have been gateways to stronger drugs; establishing stricter laws to prevent accidents under the influence; including larger warning labels on dangerous substances; and providing more clinics to treat people who are addicted.

Notice, all of these “solutions” do not propose to keep people off of drugs or alcohol but instead to actually facilitate their use with hopefully less destructive consequences. And they preserve the income of the drug industries and governments! They do not take into account the ongoing consequences to families of drug addicts, to society with non-functioning members, and to the addicts themselves who lose decades of their lives trying to get off and stay off of these drugs. The drug industries push legalization as a  “solution” because it increases the number of drug users and greatly expands both legal and illegal drug businesses, as marijuana legalization has most recently shown once again.61 Having cheap addictive drugs available on every corner makes sobriety extremely difficult and greater epidemics inevitable.

A Message of Hope and Freedom to Frontier People Groups

Unlike governments and media, only missionaries and other believers with no profits to lose can expose the deceptions marketed by the drug death industries. Revivals have repeatedly shown that people long for freedom from their addictions and for the “natural high” of Jesus, who came to give people Spirit-filled abundan life, full of faith, hope and love. Every evangelical revival in the last 300 years, since drugs and alcohol have become so powerful and widespread, has shown the power of the Holy Spirit and shared sober fellowship to free people from drug and alcohol addiction. Globally, evangelical churches, wherever they have grown up, by the power of Jesus, have pulled addicts out of their addictions into loving social sober fellowships. This transformation was awesome for me to see as a child growing up in a Mayan tribe. I long to see this powerful gospel come to the hurting families I knew in the shanty towns of North Africa and South Asia, where every family was being beaten down by addictions.


  1. 1  Courtwright, David T., Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2001, page 206. Be sure to check out his new book Age of Addiction, May 2019.

  2. 2

  3. 3

  4. 4

  5. 5

  6. 6 And also see
    WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2017.

  7. 7 US Congress Office of Technological Assessment: Technologies
    for understanding and preventing substance abuse and addiction.
    US Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1994. Pg. 59

  8. 8
    . html

  9. 9

  10. 10

  11. 11

  12. 12 Frontiers in Mission, pg. 69.

  13. 13 The Journal of David Brainard, Nov. 1745 entry.

  14.  14

  15. 15 Chapter 3:

  16. 16  Ibid, Chapter 2.

  17. 17 Binge drinking is defined as five drinks for a man or four for a woman within two hours or one event. A drink = one oz of spirits, four-five oz of wine or 12 oz of beer. Many cocktails equal two to three drinks, and a cup of wine is equal to two drinks.

  18. 18

  19. 19

  20. 20

  21. 21

  22. 22

  23. 23

  24. 24

  25. 25 Cancer and Alcohol: A Statement of the American Society of Clinical Oncology: DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2017.76.1155 Journal
    of Clinical Oncology 36, no. 1 (January 1 2018) 83-93. www.

  26. 26

  27. 27 (p. 28)

  28. 28

  29. 29

  30. 30

  31. 31

  32. 32

  33. 33

  34. 34
    . html

  35. 35

  36. 36

  37. 37
    GLOBAL.pdf (p. 23)

  38. 38

  39. 39

  40. 40

  41. 41 These pharmadrug
    deaths include deaths due to drug interactions, drug
    side effects and drug overdoses, but do not include physician
    error, illegal usage or medication deaths that cause heart
    attacks, strokes or suicides.

  42. 42

  43. 43

  44. 44

  45. 45

  46. 46 Berenson, Alex, Tell Your Children the Truth: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental
    Illness and Violence, Simon and Schuster, NY, 2019., pp. 94-97.

  47. 47 Berenson, pp. 121.

  48. 48 Berenson, pp. 112.

  49. 49 Berenson, pp. 118.

  50. 50

  51. 51

  52. 52

  53. 53 (an
    executive summary of UNODC 2017 report)

  54. 54

  55. 55

  56. 56

  57. 57

  58. 58

  59. 59

  60. 60 Gorman, Myths of Legalization,

  61. 61

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

The Abortion Industry and the Gospel of Life

The Abortion Industry and the Gospel of Life

Click on PDF link to see print version with additional charts, graphs and graphics

For believers, abortion is not just another bad thing. Rather, it is the greatest tragedy of all time. Each year, 56 million children are intentionally aborted globally—153,000 per day, 106 babies every minute.1 Roughly 90% of the world’s abortions take place outside the US,2 64% in the Frontier People Group countries from the Middle East through East Asia,3 with India alone responsible for one-fourth of the world’s abortions.4 We are often unaware of this steady, quiet genocide5 that happens behind closed doors, and the world does not realize it has been robbed of unique human individuals.6

If missionaries do not seek to stem this evil tide, who will? Babies are increasingly seen as unwanted life, threatening prosperity, and abortion has become viewed as a necessary evil to solve the problem. Ironically, this narrative has come from the “Christian” West, which champions sexual promiscuity and self-centered materialism. Currently almost half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned,7 revealing the total failure of organizations like Planned Parenthood to promote responsible behavior and choices.

By legalizing the killing of preborn babies in 1973, the United States made itself the standard bearer in women’s “reproductive rights” internationally. Western “Christian” nations now dole out aid based on a country’s willingness to agree with the agenda they set, promoting abortion as women’s healthcare. Since the 1980s, global abortions have skyrocketed, peaking in the 1990s and have since decreased slightly in developed nations but remain constant or increasing in developing countries.8 Russia and Romania have the highest rate of abortion, with more than half of the babies conceived killed before birth.9

Abortion And Global Christian Response

Christians are the only hope of changing the anti-family, anti-child narrative spreading globally. Few evangelicals support abortion, but the devastating evil of abortion remains marginalized in the majority of Christian churches. Only 2% of US churches have their own pro-life ministry of any kind, and less than half of denominational pastors have talked about the issue of abortion in their church.10

Help for mothers in unreached people groups without churches is practically non-existent. Of all the prolife dollars raised within the US, 90% are spent on US ministries,11 funding an estimated 6000 full-time personnel who staff Christian pregnancy care and pro-life activism/education ministries.12 One map of faith-based pregnancy help centers around the world reveals many regions completely devoid of any pro-life work.13

The Abortion Industry

Organizations such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Population Council use compassionate medical rhetoric to make their role in the murders of millions of babies seem virtuous. Abortion groups receive billions in donations and federal grants to champion “women’s health” and put tens of millions into fundraising, keeping their message trendy and appealing.14 Planned Parenthood alone received about half a billion tax-payer dollars from US government funding in 2015.15 But contraceptives are widely neglected or misused.16 For each adoption referral, US abortion clinics perform 117 abortions!17 They cover up the ugly effects of abortion on the mother: emotional trauma, mental health problems18and long-term physical health risks.19 A 2013 Gates Foundation study revealed that nearly 15% of all maternal deaths resulted from abortions.20

The industry argues the cost of the abortion (emotional, physical, monetary) is much lower than the cost of delivering the child and raising her, getting the baby adopted or having social services raise her. Every abortion is income for the industry and the later it is in gestation, the more profitable it is (the average cost of abortion in the US is $350 and late-term abortion is upwards of $3,000), so abortion providers are incentivized to encourage women to have more abortions rather than none.21

The industry additionally profits off the sale of infant body parts to meet the market demand for fetal organs and tissue used for research,22 a demand created and sustained by abortion.23

Opposing The Industry by Living The Gospel

If a woman seeks help for a crisis pregnancy in most parts of the world, she will find the same response wherever she turns: get an abortion. We know God has the best answer to her struggle, but how will this woman hear that message? She will only hear it from a follower of Jesus who displays God’s pro-life ethos in every area of life. In 2011, a newlywed missionary couple embodied this ethos beautifully while working for a hospital in India.24 During one of their shifts, a baby with severe genetic deformities was born and was rejected by his mother. The couple promptly adopted the infant to the shock and bewilderment of their Indian neighbors and coworkers. The precious boy lived just four years, but his short life brought joy to many and international attention to a family living out the gospel’s message of life.

It is the Church’s job to care for the vulnerable and to give compassionate help to their families. But in Frontier People Groups, where the Church is not yet, then who else is there to shoulder this burden but the missionaries, first witnesses of the gospel to a people?

It is no small thing for missionaries to position themselves to be an answer for women facing unplanned pregnancy. Knowing the industry data on the prevalence and frequency of abortions, prayerfully, we will be prepared to face the horror of abortion with compassionate love wherever we are called.

May we not forget, Christ puts Himself in the place of the most vulnerable when He said, “…whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.” 

  1. 1

  2. 2

  3. 3

  4. 4 Estimate of 15.6 million abortions occurred in India in 2015

  5. 5 An exhaustive article on abortion as genocide.

  6. 6 Detailed descriptions, photos and videos of an embryo’s distinct humanity at every moment of development:

  7. 7

  8. 8

  9. 9

  10. 10 “Views of Pastors on abortion and involvement of Churches in the Pro-Life Movement”

  11. 11 Estimate provided by LIFE International.

  12. 12 Estimate provided by Center for Bio-Ethical Reform.

  13. 13 Search by country and find the nearest pregnancy help clinic to your location.

  14. 14 In this Planned Parenthood annual report, $102,200,000 was spent on fundraising in 2018. http://www.plannedparenthood org/u.ploads/filer_public/80/d7/80d7d7c7-977c-4036-9c61b3801741b441/190118-annualreport18-p01.pdf

  15. 15

  16. 16

  17. 17 From the Planned Parenthood annual report, page 25, there were 332,757 abortions done and just 2,831 adoption referrals at PP in 2018.

  18. 18 Post-abortive women have 81% increased risk of mental problems. journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/ abortion-and-mental-health-quantitative-synthesisand-analysis-of-research-published-19952009/ E8D556AAE1C1D2F0F8B060B28BEE6C3D

  19. 19 List of recent medical studies showing numerous harmful risks associated with abortion. FactSheets/RecentResearch.pdf

  20. 20

  21. 21 Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. on genocide and abortion industry profits.

  22. 22 Guttmacher article on negative perception of fetal tissue research hurting the cause of abortion. gpr/2016/fetal-tissue-research-weapon-and-casualty-waragainst-abortion

  23. 23 “Opposition to abortion and opposition to embryonic stem cell research go hand in hand. facts/stem_cell_research_and_abortion/

  24. 24 Read the beautiful details of the Paulraj family’s adoption story.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

What’s Killing Us?

What’s Killing Us?

Click on PDF link to see print version with additional charts, graphs and graphics

Editor’s Note: There is no greater sorrow than seeing a loved one die. A bridge of compassion and gospel witness between mission workers and the unreached and Frontier People Groups has often been built by helping them escape the very things killing them and their families. This author seeks to clarify four leading causes of untimely death worldwide today, three of which are fully preventable. Other articles address solutions.

Should We Accept All Deaths as Part of God’s Plan?

If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.” —Joseph Stalin

“Only statistics.” It’s a morbid sentiment but, in a way, Stalin was not wrong. People tend to ignore issues they see as too big to be addressed. Studies have shown many people who would otherwise donate time or money to a humanitarian cause are much less likely to do so when presented with statistics detailing how widespread the problem is.1 But we must keep in mind that no problem is too big for God, even one killing millions of people every year. As the bearers of the Good News to the least reached frontiers of the world, we recognize that part of that good news is that many causes of suffering and death can be stopped. We can share our hope in the power of Christ to stop this suffering in a world without hope.

Our confidence in the power of God over death is well founded in both Scripture and history so we sometimes forget death is still an enemy. Some Christians come to accept death as inevitable, even in cases when it isn’t, thereby discounting death as a factor in human suffering. I once knew a young Christian whose mother had recently died of cancer. The prevailing words of comfort they had received from their church were “It’s sad, but your mother’s death is a part of God’s plan.” The young person was depressed enough by this to consider suicide (0.7% of all deaths are suicides).Once I traveled to a closed country with an experienced missionary. We were visiting a tribe known for wearing brightly colored clothes; however, in their camp everyone was wearing black. Invited into the main tent for dinner, our team’s leader asked the assembled tribal leaders why they were not wearing their traditional brightly colored garb. They explained that the patriarch of the tribe, the local leader’s uncle, had died the week before and they were in mourning. Without missing a beat, our leader replied, “Unlike you, we believe in Jesus Christ. So, when our loved ones die, we celebrate, because we know we will see them again.” Technically true, perhaps, but not very compassionate. 

Every People Group Fights Death

Death is something almost everyone in every people group doesn’t want to happen, especially not to their loved ones. With global health organizations already pursuing their own agendas in tracking global trends of deaths, for the first time in history believers have access to a global picture of what is really killing humanity. Mission workers have increasing opportunities to understand the sin patterns of a culture and how it is destroying its people. Globally, the majority of deaths are not caused by outside circumstances like natural disasters or disease, but by human choice. As we work out what it means to “love our neighbor as ourselves” we should carefully consider the forces that drive our brothers and sisters and their friends and families into the arms of death prematurely. 

How Death Statistics Obscure Causes

Douglas Adams wrote “It’s not the fall that kills you; it’s the sudden stop at the end.” Most global mortality databases only look at the “sudden stop.” Death certificates list as the leading causes of death things like cardiovascular diseases, cancers and respiratory disease. But they give very little insight into the behaviors or actions that led to the death. Was the respiratory disease caused by years of smoking or by the air in New Delhi? Was the cancer caused by standing too close to the microwave or by drinking wine?3

Behaviors, conditions, and circumstances that most frequently result in death are called “risk factors.” The leading risk factors tracked in global deaths are: high blood pressure (10.44 million), smoking (8.32 million), high blood sugar( 6.53 million), high body-mass index— obesity (4.72 million), outdoor air pollution (2.94 million) and alcohol use (2.84 million.)4

This type of categorization also has flaws. For example, if you are smoking and drinking while speeding away from police and you drop your cigarette into your vodka which lights your car on fire which then causes you to crash and die, was the death caused by smoking, alcohol use, fire, road accident, or police intervention? Frequent overlap confuses the causes, and some deaths may even be counted twice, so the numbers are not exact.

Deaths Due to Bad Choices

Of these risk factors, two stand out in particular. While many behavioral, genetic and dietary factors can lead to obesity or high blood pressure, smoking tobacco and consuming alcohol are both specific activities. Let’s take a detailed look at these two activities alongside two others; medically-induced abortion, which is widely ignored in death statistics, and lethal violence, which is widely reported globally and thus holds a prominent place in the public imagination of the causes of death. Lethal violence uniquely shares a quality with abortion—namely that the deaths in both cases result from values and beliefs that lead to the conclusion that killing another person will somehow improve your situation.

Fighting Untimely Deaths

I chose to take a detailed look at these four causes of death (lethal violence, alcohol, smoking and induced abortion) because not only do they directly cause over 60% of all global deaths between them but three of them have a pretty straightforward solution. If people would stop drinking, smoking and killing their babies, that alone would impact nearly two thirds of all the deaths on earth.



Lethal Violence: 560,000 Deaths Annually

Lethal violence gets more global news time and a greater share of the public consciousness than alcohol, smoking and abortion combined. That isn’t really surprising because of the kinds of deaths lethal violence includes: homicide (385,000), war (99,000), accidental homicide and legal interventions by law enforcement (76,000). Images of the victims of violence and the suffering that surround them are easy to sympathize with and to sensationalize. Tragic events often garner intense negative media coverage and global condemnation is the norm.

Reports of violent events can paint a hopeless picture of the global state of humanity. Mass shootings, bombings and other terrorist events occur seemingly every month. As of this writing, there are at least 37 ongoing wars.5 However, the truth is that we are probably living in the most peaceful time in recorded history.6  There has been a significant decline in global deaths due to violence since the end of World War II. Although lethal violence includes almost all the ways people choose intentionally to kill each other (abortion notably not included), the global number of deaths is surprisingly low, only 560,000 every year.7  For context, mosquitoes kill on average 780,000 people each year. When compared to major causes of death the difference is stark: alcohol causes five to six times as many deaths annually while smoking causes almost fifteen times as many deaths as violence.8  Abortion kills one hundred babies for every one person who dies due to all other forms of violence at the hands of another person.9

Most importantly, all of these four things are socially acceptable on the global scale except for lethal violence. The global community responds to violence, even civil wars, with trade sanctions or military intervention. Widespread condemnation is expected. Arguably, it’s this condemnation and the freedom people have to express this through democratic action that has contributed to the global decline of violence.10  Ultimately, the majority of people who die due to violence don’t die because violence is acceptable, but because someone wanted to kill them.

Alcohol: 2.8 Million Deaths Annually

In the western Christian context, alcohol is a difficult subject to talk about. For many Christians the consumption of alcohol goes beyond merely being a morally neutral activity to the point that for them drinking represents taking a moral stand against legalism. For many other Christians alcohol represents the pain caused by a loved one who drinks too much or the loss of a child to a drunk driver.

However, few are aware of the number of deaths actually resulting from alcohol consumption. There is a widespread misconception that alcohol is only harmful in the extreme case of alcoholism. But the fact is that most people who die from the consumption of alcohol aren’t even considered alcoholics. For example, in Russia as many as a third of all deaths are attributable to drinking, but only 4.73% of the population is considered to even have an alcohol use disorder.11  Likewise, in the US, one source says only 6.2% of the adult population have an alcohol use disorder, but notes that 26.9% of all people age 18+ and 13.4% of people aged 12–20 (who aren’t even legally allowed to drink) have engaged in binge drinking within the last month.12  Alcoholism is rarely reported in Muslim countries, but alcohol consumption doubled in the Middle East between 2001 and 201113 and doubled in India between 2005 and 2016 (Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, WHO, 2018).

Increasingly, alcohol consumption is seen as a part of “coping” with daily life, especially for women. As a result, alcohol related fatalities for women in the US increased by 85% in the decade between 2007 and 2017 alone.14  One mother put it this way, “It’s so socially acceptable. Even if you drink a lot, it’s not seen as weird—it’s normal to drink as a parent, we celebrate it. There is a culture that says, ‘Moms, this is your right. You have earned this. You actually need it.’”15  This is not an exclusively American phenomenon. Many other countries also have increasing societal expectations for drinking daily and for women drinking heavily.16

The normalization of alcohol consumption as a part of daily life largely resulted from a concerted effort on the part of the global alcohol industry since at least the prohibition era of the early 1900s, an industry with an annual revenue of over 1.5 trillion dollars globally.17

The effectiveness of this approach to advertising is why the majority of people who die due to alcohol use drink what is considered “normal” amounts of alcohol. Because of this societal blindness to the effects of “normal” alcohol consumption, alcohol is the leading cause of death globally for people age 15–49.18 Furthermore, despite the widespread belief that moderate alcohol consumption is good for your health, the only amount of alcohol consumption that doesn’t carry a significant risk to your overall health is none.19

These facts do not even begin to touch on the other fatal and non-fatal results of alcohol consumption that are socially or morally destructive. While an estimated 35% of women globally have experienced some sort of sexual violence,20 half of all sexual assaults are attributed to alcohol consumption.21 Additionally, alcohol use causes more than half of 1.35 million traffic fatalities every year22 and is involved in the majority of homicides, cases of domestic violence and child abuse.23
We need to rethink what we consider an acceptable amount of alcohol consumption. In the face of the global weight of harm done by alcohol we must carefully and prayerfully consider how we relate to the alcohol industry and use of alcohol on the field and in the lives of those to whom we witness and work alongside.

Smoking Tobacco: 8.3 Million Deaths Annually

While nicotine is not the most intoxicating drug, tobacco is the deadliest, killing over 8.3 million people per year.24 Despite downward trends of usage, tobacco is still the leading preventable cause of death in the USA (not counting abortion). Tobacco causes 20% of US deaths, including multiple forms of cancer, heart, and lung problems even through second-hand smoke.25 More than twice as many people die every year globally from secondhand smoke as are killed by violence (1.22 million people in 2017).26

So why do people keep on smoking? Well the simple fact is that it’s very, very addictive. According to a 2010 report prepared for the European Union (EU), tobacco has a substantially higher risk of causing addiction than heroin, cocaine, alcohol, or cannabis.27  One researcher testified in a trial that “there’s a greater likelihood that a person who starts smoking will become dependent than a person who starts using heroin...”28  Globally, over 100,000 children start smoking every day,29  and even though it is estimated that half of the smokers in the USA try to quit smoking every year, less than 6% manage to quit smoking completely.30 This massive influx of new smokers and tobacco’s addictive qualities have resulted in the smoking of over 3 million cigarettes every minute in China alone. Globally 15 billion cigarettes are sold every day and over 5 trillion every year.31  Tobacco use has turned into a global pandemic with one billion addicts, half of whom will die from smoking, and 80% living in lower-income countries.32

Despite the growing global trends, in the United States social condemnation of smoking and the resulting legal changes have been effective in curbing and even reversing the rates of smoking. Following public condemnation of the health risks of smoking, cigarette ads were banned on TV and radio starting in 1971 and smoking in restaurants began to be banned in 1995. The rate of smoking for American adults has dropped from 42% in 1964 to 14% in 2017.33  This trend is hopeful because it shows that public outcry can move society and government support  against even industries as powerful as tobacco with products that rank among some of the most addictive in the world.

Abortion: 56 Million Deaths Annually

“Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” —Bob Pierce

If you think the unborn are humans, then abortion in the modern world is nothing short of the greatest atrocity in the entire history of humankind. There have been more than 1,539,585,000 abortions globally since 1980.34  That’s one and a half billion in the last 39 years. That puts the number of people intentionally killed before birth somewhere upward of 1.5 times the total number of all the people killed in all known and estimated wars in all of human history.35

No other cause of death even comes close to the number of deaths caused by abortion. Not the Black Plague, which killed 20% of the world’s population, nor the Spanish flu which killed more than 50,000,000 people in only 2 years, nor even smallpox which killed over 300,000,000 people. And abortion isn’t a plague or a natural disaster. It is human choice combined with stripping the status of human from the unborn. If they aren’t people, their deaths don’t matter. Thus, the greatest cause of death in human history is socially acceptable.

Humanity has a long and sordid history of deciding certain groups of people aren’t people at all. From the Nazi’s dehumanization of Jews, gypsies and homosexuals to the slave-markets of ancient Sumer to every slave owning society in history, the reduction of some group of people or another to less than human status had always been used to justify stripping people of their basic human rights and thus enslaving and murdering them. The same narrative continues today, compounded by the fact that in the modern world access to abortion has become a symbol of women’s rights.

In the twisted postmodern worldview of the West the ability to have sex without any (perceived) consequences has come to be seen as a basic component of human rights. And as such, it’s often the Western-educated social elites—doctors, teachers, etc.—who are telling people that the best option is abortion; ironically in the only century when safe and inexpensive contraceptives are widely available and very effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies. It is in part this crazed notion that saving people from the consequences of their actions (or other people’s, in the case of rape) is one of, if not the ultimate good which drives much of the fervor on the pro-abortion side of the issue. I suspect that most of the killing that has been done over the bloody course of human history was done in the name of saving someone.

Death may be the last enemy to be defeated, but we can’t let it run roughshod over more than 50,000,000 babies every year while we work toward that day. So don’t be timid about speaking up and letting people know that God loves them and their unborn babies. Show them that love. Simple offers of help and encouragement can save lives and love lived out can change the world. 

The Role of the Missionary

The role of a missionary is a difficult one. Even as imperfect stand-ins for the Savior of all humanity there are many causes, projects and people demanding (and deserving of) our time. So when we start talking about working against the sources of 60% of all deaths, that can sound like a task too big to even start. But the chances are good that every one of us is already in a relationship with someone whose life is being affected by one of these death industries. How we respond to those people will be different in every context, every relationship and every situation. Only God knows what the right response will be. Fortunately, we can ask Him.

  1. 1

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  24. 24

  25. 25

  26. 26

  27. 27 SCENIHR, Addictiveness and Attractiveness of Tobacco
    Additives, 2010.

  28. 28 Evans v. Lorillard, 990 N.E. 2d 997 (Mass. 2013)

  29. 29

  30. 30

  31. 31

  32. 32

  33. 33

  34. 34

  35. 35 Hedges, Chris, What Every Person Should Know About War,
    Copyright © 2003 by Chris Hedges

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

The Puzzling Power of Group Self-Deception

The Puzzling Power of Group Self-Deception

Seminar excerpt, February 7, 2003

What we could call “group self-deception,” is a type of culturally reinforced delusion. Missionaries are legitimately fearful of destructive cultural practices entering into the Christian movement, and of the puzzling power of group self-deception. However, we deceive ourselves if we think our own cultural tradition is devoid of group self-deception.

I want to address a major killer in much of the Westernized world which our society does little about. This is a cultural tradition that is very deep and strong in the Western world. I speak of the role and deeply rooted function in our society and churches of an addictive and dangerous drug called alcohol.

We are dealing with a culturally reinforced delusion that pervades both secular society and the cultural tradition of Christianity. Compare an evangelical writer on this topic writing in Christianity Today, with a secular author writing in Newsweek. The evangelical author mentions the alternatives of total abstinence and limited use, but he goes on actually to recommend limited use over abstinence:

Christians who do not commit to a principle of total abstinence should follow a guideline that would represent both discernment and Christian freedom by allowing limited use.

Totally lacking in the article is any awareness of the inevitable tragedy for many of those who follow its suggested social use of alcohol.

The secular author, unrestrained by the evangelical panic to conform to this world, says,

Booze and beer are not the same as illegal drugs. They’re worse. … Alcohol is a factor in more than half of all domestic-violence and sexual-assault cases. In 1995 four out of every 10 people on probation said they were drinking when they committed a violent crime, while only one in 10 admitted using illicit drugs. … But when members of Congress tried to pass legislation that would make alcohol part of the purview of the nation’s drug czar, the measure failed. The argument is this: heroin, cocaine, and marijuana are harmful and against the law, but alcohol is used in moderation with no ill effects by many people.

But here’s the counterargument: there are an enormous number of people who cannot and will never be able to drink in moderation.

Years ago Upton Sinclair, a social prophet of his time, observed that few home owners would keep a dog around if it leaped upon one out of ten dinner guests and dragged them down by the throats to their deaths, yet that is what we do when we serve a deadly drug that does not seem to harm nine out of ten who use it, but condemns one out of ten to years of difficulties, often leading to violence, crime, child abuse, wife abuse and highway deaths of others who are totally innocent.

Our basic commitment to doing the will of God and glorifying Him must lead us to a serious reevaluation and questioning of both our theology and practice. This is the definition of mission: what is necessary to glorify God? And if “what is necessary” is more than merely becoming aware of Him, but coming alongside Him in the conquest of evil—then we have a huge mission to attack.


This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Hunting the Lion

An Historical Case Study of Missionaries Fighting a Death Industry

Hunting the Lion

“Take courage,” Livingstone said to them, “I will help you get rid of the beasts.” Dr. Livingstone was speaking to the men of the Bakhatla tribe in Africa about a pride of lions which were attacking their cattle in great numbers, with no fear of man, leading the tribe to starvation. The tribe thought the lions were bewitched so they were too afraid to hunt them. Dr. Livingstone hunted and attacked the pride of lions, miraculously surviving a deadly bite to his shoulder—causing him to be disabled in one arm for the rest of his life.1

 Dr. Livingstone’s response to the tribe in need gets to the heart of the power of the gospel and the missionary response to evil. In this specific case, Dr. Livingstone came to Africa with the purpose of sharing the gospel, but he found a people under attack and he was willing to risk his life to fight for their safety.  

This story boldly illustrates the common pattern in mission history of going to the field to share the Good News of Jesus only to find a lion in the midst of the people we have come to serve. How the missionary responds to these lions can greatly impact the gospel going forward. After Dr. Livingstone dealt with this beast, soon another more destructive lion, the slave trade, reared its head and he spent the rest of his life fighting that beast.

Historically, the global missionary effort was united in sharing the gospel and in fighting the big industries of their day which were profiting off the destruction of the very people the missionaries had come to serve. A valid historical model of mission includes helping the people groups “get rid of the beasts” killing them. This successful precedent should inform the missionary response to the modern death industries of our day.

Dr. Livingstone spent his missionary efforts teaching men, women and children to read, so that they could understand the Bible for themselves. Winning a village to Christ only to have the tribe’s women and children stolen into slavery was a huge hindrance to the gospel going forward. The lion of the slave trade that Livingstone encountered horrified, sickened, and haunted him in his sleep. For many years, he felt powerless to fight it. He knew God wanted this evil to end.

After years of hunting the lion of slavery, Dr. Livingstone found a way to attack it. In 1852, Livingstone realized that if there was a proper road through Africa, then the slave trade would end. Dr. Livingstone risked his life in a trek through the Kalihari desert to find a route for the British to use to make the Arab and Portuguese slave trade less profitable, in hope of ending slavery entirely. The plan worked. Livingstone successfully catalyzed the building of a road into the interior making the foot trails used for the slave trade unprofitable compared to the new road for commercial goods. The road he made not only broke the monopoly of the slave trade, hastening its demise, but was also used by missionaries to bring the gospel into the interior of Africa enabling millions of people to come to the Lord. The slave trade was ended shortly after his death.2

Dr. Livingstone was not alone in blessing people through hunting the lions he found; it was a part of a global trend in the missionary effort of the day. In a groundbreaking article in The American Political Science Review, titled “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” the author Robert Woodberry gathers a wealth of data from the colonial era. He makes a compelling statistical case that the actions of the conversionary Protestants were part of a unified global pattern of societal reform. Woodberry argues that these actions of “conversionary” missionaries like Livingstone greatly increased the stability of the later democracies that formed.

What were these actions? The same things that Dr. Livingstone focused on:

  1. Promoting religious liberty and education of every man, woman and child so that the people could read God’s Word, which brought greater stability and a shared moral code
  2. Mass printing (which included calling attention to the vices and corruptions in their communities by comparing them to God’s Word leading to repentance)
  3. Calling people to meet, discuss and volunteer, which brought change to neighborhoods 
  4. Challenging the Church to care about the burdens of their “neighbor” on the other side of the world and to share in their struggles
  5. Fighting the lions that came with the missionaries, or as Woodberry put it, “publicizing the abuses of colonialism.” These actions not only let the gospel go forward in new ways but brought stability to whole countries3

Given what Jesus says about the yeast of the kingdom, it should come as no surprise to us that following the simple kingdom principles of sharing God’s Word and teaching the people ALL that Jesus taught us changes the course of history and blesses more than just the people who take up their cross.

What we should take as a cautionary tale from the mission trends of the colonial era is that in the areas where there was rampant secularization of the Church, though the Enlightenment ideals seemed the same, the results were devastating. Without conversionary Protestant (missionary) actions, there was no one fighting the lions. Exploitation went unchecked, the society at large ignored the cries of the poor and led the people into chaos— all while having access to God’s Word, but no conversionary influence.

The missionaries were united in their fight of the major lions of their day. Their ability to rouse the people to be ready to fight the lions for the sake of the gospel seems to be a legacy unique to their movement. In the postcolonial era, missionaries are less associated with their governments, the global church is much more widespread, and global communication is easier, so tactics may vary, but the need for missionary involvement is no less crucial.

Today missionaries face huge industries, profiting from the death of millions of people, whose reach extends past any one government. Never before in history has there been so much money to be made in the destruction of human life. Never before in history has it been so important for missionaries to speak up against the lions boldly attacking human life in broad daylight with no fear. God sees the destruction and He has a response— may we be a part of that response.




  1. Hannula, Richard M., Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History, Canon Press, Moscow ID, 1999, p.227.

  2. Livingstone, David, Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa.

  3. The American Political Science Review, vol. 106, NO. 2, “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” by Robert Woodberry, 2012.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

When Doing Good Is Controversial

When Doing Good Is Controversial

When British missionary Amy Carmichael learned of the secret trafficking of little children in the temples of India, other missionaries opposed her involvement. Consequently, she worked tirelessly to rescue the children with minimal help. Similarly, pastors dismiss pro-life activists for being too concerned about abortion. Many are blinded to the dreadfulness of death by dismemberment, saying, “Aren’t the babies going to heaven anyway?”1

Today Christian higher education produces leaders whose ministry priorities bear little resemblance to the Good Samaritan, who did not pass by “on the other side” to avoid the victim. Seminaries don’t train pastors how to address abortion. Few Christians will grasp the extent of abortion or that abortion sacrifices children to gods of convenience, education, career or promiscuity. Killing innocent children is abhorrent to God; He punishes those who choose “to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind.” (Jer. 19:5)  In Asia, where most of the Frontier People Groups live and have no churches, two-thirds of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion.2

Therefore, as abortion spreads into unreached people groups, missionaries also need training in effective methods of helping parents value their pre-born children. The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) has produced such a training by carefully studying the history of social reform, learning how God led Christians and missionaries previously to stop injustices. By applying these principles internationally, CBR’s educational strategy of using prenatal development and abortion photographs/ videos has proven to effectively change minds and save lives in such diverse countries as Sweden and China.

Photographs provide clear evidence of truth. Mark Twain satirized Belgium’s King Leopold II lamenting the loss of his rubber trade (which caused the deaths of nearly 10 million Congolese): “the incorruptible Kodak [camera]…. The only witness … I couldn’t bribe. Every Yankee missionary … sent home and got one.…” Professor Derrick M. Nault wrote: “The most prominent individuals taking such photographs were Alice Seeley Harris and John Harris, English missionaries who arrived at the Congo Balolo Mission in 1898. One broadly circulated photograph…” showed Nsala Wala staring at the severed hand and foot of his 5-year-old daughter, murdered by the Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company.These missionaries recognized the biblical mandate to “do justice.” (Mic. 6:8) They and other reformers exposed the atrocity photos in “lantern lectures” to packed American and British audiences. Other missionaries remained silent, fearing ejection from the Congo if they spoke against the slaughter.

Exposing the atrocities of abortion is similar. CBR’s Genocide Awareness Project shows college students the commonalities between abortion and genocide, accepting any persecution. Tragically, Christian leaders fear that expressions of opposition to abortion will compromise their gospel proclamation. Worldwide, over 50 millionpreborn children are killed annually—each one created in God’s image. Christian missionaries must stand against this evil to help people see that Christ is real. 


  1.  1  Elliot, Elisabeth, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, Fleming H. Revell, 1987.

  2.  2

  3. 3 Nault, Derrick M., “At the Bar of Public Sentiment,’

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

24:14 Goal: What is a CPM?

Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (78 months)

24:14 Goal: What is a CPM?

A Church Planting Movement (CPM) can be defined as the multiplication of disciples making disciples and leaders developing leaders. This results in indigenous churches planting churches. These churches begin to spread quickly through a people group or population segment. These new disciples and churches begin to transform their communities as the new body of Christ lives out kingdom values.

When churches reproduce consistently to four generations in multiple streams, the process becomes a sustaining movement. It may take years to begin. But once the first churches start, we usually see a movement reach four generations within three to five years. In addition, these movements themselves often reproduce new movements. More and more, CPMs are starting new CPMs within other people groups and population segments.

God’s Spirit is launching CPMs around the world, as He has done at various times in history. After a few of these modern movements began in the early 1990s, a small group of the initial movement catalysts gathered to discuss these amazing works of God. They coined the term “Church Planting Movements” to describe what God was doing. It was beyond what they had imagined.

As these modern movements have emerged, God’s Spirit is using a variety of models or strategies to start CPMs. Terms used to describe these models include Training for Trainers (T4T), Discovery Bible Study (DBS), Disciple Making Movements (DMM), Four Fields, Rapidly Advancing Discipleship (RAD), and Zume. Many movements are hybrids of these various approaches. Many movements have also developed indigenously outside of these training models.

The global leaders who formed the 24:14 Coalition chose CPM as the most helpful and broadly inclusive term. “24:14 is a network of the world’s CPMs and CPM organizations collaborating with urgency, and calling the global church to join in similar efforts.”1

Sometimes the term “Kingdom Movement” is used, meaning essentially the same thing as CPM: “We aim to engage every unreached people and place with an effective Kingdom Movement (CPM) strategy by December 31, 2025.”2

These Kingdom Movements resemble what we see in the New Testament.

“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.” Acts 1:8

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them…. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’” Acts 2:4,7-11

“But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.” Acts 4:4

“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” Acts 9:31

“But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.” Acts 12:24

“The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:49-52

 “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:21-22

“And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women…. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men…” Acts 17:4, 12

“Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’...” Acts 18:8-11a

“This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” Acts 19:10

In these modern movements we see similar dynamics to what God did in the early church:

  • The Holy Spirit empowering and sending. One of the striking aspects of modern CPMs is the role of the “ordinary person.” God’s work is not restricted to trained professionals. Instead we see ordinary people being used by the Holy Spirit to share the gospel, cast out demons, heal the sick, and multiply disciples and churches. Non-literate people are planting many, many churches in these movements. Brand new believers are powerfully bringing the gospel to new places. They are ordinary people filled with the Spirit of an extraordinary God.
  • The believers praying constantly and showing great faith. Someone has said a CPM is always preceded by a prayer movement. CPMs are also marked by prayer, being “prayer movements” in and of themselves. This is because when we pray God works, and CPMs are an act of God, not a human work. Also, praying is one of Jesus’ basic commands. So every disciple realizes the need to pray and to multiply prayer for himself/herself and for the movement of which he/she is a part.
  • A powerful witness through the way these disciples treat other people. Many Christians and churches around the world have separated the physical from the spiritual. Some Christian groups seem concerned only about spiritual matters, while they neglect the physical needs of people around them. However, disciples in these movements focus on obedience to Scripture.

As a result they eagerly show God’s love to people.

Obeying Scripture leads them to love their neighbor. Thus people and churches in these movements feed the hungry, care for widows and orphans, and fight injustice. A biblical worldview does not separate sacred and secular. God wants all of our lives and societies holistically transformed by the good news.

  • The number of disciples increasing rapidly. Just like the early church in Acts, these modern CPMs multiply rapidly. This speed comes partly from a powerful move of the Spirit. It also comes from biblical principles being followed. For instance, those in movements believe that “every believer is a disciple-maker.” (Matt 28:19) This avoids leaving only a few paid professionals to make disciples. In these movements, disciples, churches and leaders learn that one of their main functions is to bear fruit. And they do this as soon and as often as possible.
  • These disciples becoming obedient to God.

Disciples in CPMs take Scripture very seriously.

Everyone is expected to truly be a disciple of the Word. All have freedom to challenge one another with the question: “Where do you see that in the text?” Believers give careful attention to hearing or reading the Word, both privately and in groups. God is the foremost teacher, through His Word and they know they are accountable for obeying the Word.

  • Households being saved. Just like in the book of Acts where we see households, multiple households and even some communities turn to the Lord, we are seeing the same thing in these movements. Most of these movements are happening among unreached groups, which tend to be much more communal than Western culture. In these cultures, decisions are made by the families and/or clans. In these modern CPMs we see the same type of group decision making.
  • Opposition and persecution. These movements are often happening in the hardest places and as a result there tends to be significant persecution. Unfortunately sometimes that persecution comes in the form of established churches reporting activities of these new movements, to avoid negative impact on themselves from religious fundamentalists or governments. Often the persecution comes from religious and/or government forces seeking to stop these movements of God. But the movements overcome this persecution by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. There is a price to be paid and many people in these movements are paying that price.
  • Disciples being filled with the Holy Spirit and joy. Despite the opposition and persecution we see toward movements, the believers have tremendous joy, as they have come from the depths of darkness to the light. As a result they are very motivated to share the good news with those around them. In many instances those suffering persecution saying they are rejoicing that God has counted them worthy to suffer for his Name.
  • The Word spreading through the whole region. We see in Acts 19 that the gospel spread throughout the Roman province of Asia in just two years. That seems incredible! We see the same dynamic in these movements. Literally thousands and even millions of people in different regions are hearing the gospel for the first time in a few short years because of the tremendous rate of multiplication of disciples.
  • The gospel spreading to new languages and nations. Unless a movement fits its social and cultural context, it will fail. This begins with the first contact into a people group. The outsider looks for a man or woman of peace who then becomes the church planter. If the outsider is the church planter, they will introduce a foreign pattern of faith. If insiders are the church planters, the gospel seeds planted from the outside can grow freely. The good news will bear fruit in ways natural to that culture yet rooted in Scripture. Thus the gospel can spread more rapidly. Note, these movements normally happen within a people group or population segment. Crossing over into another group normally requires more teaching and people with cross-cultural giftings. Most CPMs today are happening among unreached people groups. This is partly because indigenous movements arise better in places that have not been (as) exposed to a prepackaged westernized gospel.

A CPM has certain characteristics.

  1. Awareness that only God can start a movement. At the same time, disciples can follow biblical principles to pray, plant, and water the seeds that can lead to a “book of Acts” type movement.
  2. Every follower of Christ is encouraged to be a reproducing disciple, not merely a convert.
  3. Patterns of frequent and regular accountability for obeying what the Lord speaks to each person. Also for passing on God’s truth to others in loving relationship. This happens through active involvement in a small group.
  • Each disciple is equipped for spiritual maturity.

This includes equipping to interpret and apply Scripture, a well-rounded prayer life, living as a part of the larger Body of Christ, and responding well to persecution/suffering. This enables believers to function not merely as consumers, but as active agents of kingdom advance.

  • Each disciple is given a vision for reaching their relational network and extending God’s kingdom to the ends of the earth. Priority is given to the darkest places, with a commitment to see that everyone in the world has access to the gospel. Believers learn to minister and partner with others in the body of Christ in every context.
  • Reproducing churches form as part of the process of multiplying disciples. A CPM aims for 1) disciples, 2) churches, 3) leaders and 4) movements to multiply endlessly by the power of the Spirit.
  • CPMs focus on starting movements of multiplying generations of churches. (The first churches started among a group are generation one churches, which start generation two churches, which start generation three churches, which in turn start generation four churches, and so on.)
  • Leaders evaluate and make radical changes as needed to grow. They make sure that each element of character, knowledge, disciple-making skills and relational skills is 1) biblical and 2) can be followed by other generations of disciples. This requires keeping all things very simple.

We are now seeing the gospel spread in many places as it did in the book of Acts. We long to see this happen in every people and place in our generation!

  1. Parks, Stan and Steve Smith, in “24:14 – The War That Finally Ends,” Mission Frontiers, Jan-Feb 2018, pp. 7-12.

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

Daring to Succeed

Daring to Succeed

Adapted with permission from The Growth Challenge: Do We Dare to Take an Honest Look?

By L.D. Waterman, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, Volume 55 Issue 1 (Jan-Mar, 2019)

I had been serving among a Muslim UPG for more than 15 years. During some of those years I had led a team of over 30 adult missionaries, pursuing what we considered to be a well-crafted strategy to reach that group. I had worked with a team of national partners to plant a contextual church with local leadership. Then a number of factors challenged me to ask: “Is what we’re doing really God’s best?” When I read David Garrison’s Church Planting Movements, I realized that some of what we had done had hindered the hoped-for reproduction.

My new watchword became “reproducible,” but my national colleagues wanted to stick with our original plans, so I phased out of that ministry. That little group still exists, but has never grown or multiplied.

In 2010, a conference workshop faced me with the challenge: “If we keep doing what we’re doing now, will we reach the goal? We might see enough fruit to share good stories in prayer letters, yet actually leave a group more unreached than before we arrived.”

This adapted illustration of a fictitious missionary couple brings the point home powerfully:

The Renaldos went to Ethiopia for two years of language study, then in 2010 began work among 150,000 Sudanese Arabs there. This people group was increasing through natural population growth at a healthy 2.5% per year (3,750).

The 1,500 Evangelicals among this group (1%), had become isolated from their Muslim neighbors. They also weren’t growing at all, as natural population growth of Evangelical families was offset by families emigrating out of the country.

After language study, the Renaldos began witnessing using a fast-track storying approach. Through much effort, they led 30 individuals to Jesus in one year, started a new church and sent home glowing reports. Their supporters were impressed, but at the end of the year the total number of Evangelicals had only increased by 2%, to 1,530.

During that same year, the Sudanese Arab population grew by 3,750 (2.5%) to 153,750. So despite the Renaldo’s fruitfulness that year, the people group in this fictitious scenario actually dropped from 1% to 0.995% Evangelical.

The Renaldos could continue leading Muslims to Jesus every month and hopefully starting a new church each year. Yet if their ministry continued with addition rather than multiplication, the Evangelicals among this people would have less and less impact as the number of lost people continued to outpace their ministry.

Through the original form I saw of this presentation, I realized a ministry that sounded pretty good to me could result in net negative progress toward seeing that people group reached. I realized that the ministry effort in which I had been involved for over a decade was likely losing ground compared to population growth.

I had to ask myself, and then my coworkers and those I was leading: “Do we dare to take an honest look—at our fruit and our projected fruit?”

Sadly, the practice of leading individuals to Jesus and forming them into a new church has been the experience of many ministries among unreached people groups. In fact, despite the faithful efforts of thousands of missionaries among Unreached People Groups (UPGs), the total number of lost people in UPGs has roughly doubled over the past 40 years.

I realized that we needed to shift to a ministry model that could rapidly reproduce disciples and churches among a UPG. I saw this as not just a theory or a wish, but a description of what God was actually doing among a number of UPGs around the world. Back in 2010, the best estimates claimed fewer than 100 Church Planting Movements (CPMs) globally. Now, in early 2019, the work of God’s Spirit and the sharing of known data has brought the number of recognized, consistent, fourth generation movements to over 700. These movements are thriving in a wide variety of geographic locations and religious blocks.

Applying a CPM-oriented strategy doesn’t guarantee “success.” God is the sovereign Lord of the harvest. He chooses what fruit will grow from our steps of obedience. A person could do everything “right” and never personally be part of launching a movement. But at this point we can undeniably say that some ministry approaches increase the likelihood of God bringing forth abundant harvest through a CPM. And some other ministry approaches consistently bring forth little (if any) fruit and actually hinder a larger harvest.

As Robby Butler has shown in his article “Movements in Every Peoples: How Peoples Become Reached,” “The Oneby-One Method” (reaching individuals and combining them in a single congregation where none existed) results in “a foreign, conglomerate church, alienated from the local peoples.” The alarming result is that “Extraction evangelism makes peoples more resistant. Extraction evangelism into conglomerate congregations hinders indigenous movements” (italics and bold font mine). Reaching numerous individuals among a UPG may feel like exciting progress, yet it is usually counterproductive. Research shows that this approach at best usually brings slower growth than population increase and at worst hardens much larger numbers toward the gospel.

David and Paul Watson describe the important distinction between extraction evangelism and Disciple Making Movements. They write: “Extraction evangelism is ingrained in Western Christian culture. Yet extraction evangelism techniques create too many barriers to the gospel to result in Disciple Making Movements. Period. Extraction evangelism techniques even inoculate people against receiving the gospel. Disciple-making, on the other hand, is part of catalyzing Disciple Making Movements around the world. If Disciple Making Movements are our goal, we have to make the jump from extraction-evangelism thinking to disciple-making thinking. Extraction evangelism thinking focuses on reaching one person at a time. Disciple-making thinking focuses on reaching one family or community at a time ....the minimum unit for disciple-making should be the household (family), affinity group, or community rather than the individual.”

If someone like the Renaldos wanted to catalyze a

reproducing Church Planting Movement, how could they shift their approach? While learning language and culture, they could:

  • Catalyze a prayer effort for a CPM among the focus people.
  • Work with others to prepare Bible Discovery materials appropriate to the focus people.
  • Learn to talk with unbelievers from their focus group about felt needs among individuals and communities.
  • Learn to verbalize (in the focus language) appropriate spiritual comments to see if they could find spiritually open people (persons of peace, Luke 10:6).
  • Meet believers from their focus group and share vision for a rapidly reproducing movement among the group.
  • Interact with near-culture Christians and share CPM vision while learning about relationships and attitudes between the cultures.

When their language ability allows, they could:

  • Enter deeper conversations with focus people who seem spiritually open, to ask if they would be willing to gather their family and/or friends to study the Holy Book
  • .Facilitate CPM training for near-culture and focus group believers. Offer ongoing coaching to believers who want to implement what they learn.
  • Meet intensively with any believers who catch the vision, to pray and encourage one another in looking for people of peace and starting Discovery Groups.
  • Make sure they don’t just reach isolated individuals who then become alienated from their family and network; rather always aim to reach families or groups.
  • Make sure to use a very reproducible Discovery approach in reaching and discipling groups, not a teaching approach that depends on someone with a lot of training and knowledge.

Let’s say within their first year after finishing intensive language learning, they host a CPM training led by an Arab CPM trainer from the Middle East with themselves as co-trainers. Fifty people attend: five believers from their focus group and 45 Christians from a near culture that lives in regular contact with this group. From that training, four people show significant interest. They include a married couple from their focus group, a married man from a near culture who actively serves in his local church, and this man’s pastor, who is favorable but too busy to actively engage in UPG work. They confirm the pastor’s willingness to “release” his church member for active focus on UPG ministry. They have the man confirm that his wife is favorable toward his engaging in this ministry (though she herself doesn’t plan to become involved).

The Renaldos begin meeting weekly with this man and couple. They pray, study Scripture together, follow the Lord’s leading and plan to find people of peace. Through a variety of creative approaches, within six months they have found six potential people of peace. Two of them never gather a group, one group starts but soon disbands, one group meets for a while, but then people drop out for a variety of reasons. Only two groups (each having six adults plus six teens and some other children) continue through 30 chronological Discovery Bible Studies from Creation to Christ, including steps to saving faith and baptism. During that time, six of the group members have also found other interested people and started additional Discovery Groups (second generation).

By the end of that year, two groups of six adults from the focus group (plus teens and children) have come to faith and begun moving toward functioning as house churches. At the end of the second year, those two house churches and six Discovery Groups have multiplied, becoming six house churches, 18 second generation Discovery Groups and 20 third-generation Discovery Groups, with a total of 80 baptized believers and 250 seekers studying chronological Bible stories. The Renaldos’ national partners have also started four additional Discovery Groups, two of which have come to faith together, yielding 16 baptized believers (10 adults, 6 teens). And those two groups have birthed six additional Discovery Groups.

At the end of the third year, the first stream has 50 house churches, 500 baptized believers, and 150 Discovery Groups (25 of which are fourth generation) with 700 seekers. The second stream has six house churches, 46 baptized believers, and 15 Discovery Groups, of which five are third generation. 

At the end of the fourth year, the first stream has 200 house churches (some of which are fourth generation) with 2000 baptized believers. The second stream has 20 house churches with 200 baptized believers.1 Both streams continue to multiply Discovery Groups. A third stream has also begun, having one house church of eight new believers and two new Discovery Groups begun.

Within four years, a pattern of indigenous multiplication has been established, yielding over 2,200 baptized believers. The 1,500 Evangelical believers have become 3,700. In the meantime, the population has grown at 2.5% per year. The 150,000 Sudanese Arabs have grown to 165,573 in those same four years. The 3,700 believers now constitute 2.2% of the group’s population. They have crossed the 2% threshold to be considered a reached group, having internal resources to keep spreading the gospel to their own people. And with good reason. A pattern of multiplication has been established, such that Kingdom advance can continue to exceed population growth.

God is doing amazing things in our day, in apparent answer to the prayers of his people and diligent application of simple reproductive approaches. Church Planting Movements (Disciple Making Movements) hold out the best hope we know of for all peoples to hear and receive the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In light of this, we do well to ask ourselves: “Will the approaches I am pursuing or supporting yield the results for which I’m praying? Am I doing the things most likely to bear maximum fruit for Christ’s glory among the nations?”

  1. If any reader considers this growth rate unrealistic, see for example the growth documented in “How God is Sweeping through South Asia” (a portion of “God is Using Movements to Reach the Unreached” by Dr. David Garrison) in the January-February 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers, pp. 18-19.

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

24:14—The War that Finally Ends

24:14—The War that Finally Ends

Dr. Steve Smith devoted his life to following Jesus and leading people to faith in Jesus and then discipling others to do the same. It was his great desire to see the Great Commission fulfilled in our generation. This article is an updated version of an article from January 2018 that lays out that challenge for us.

Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor. Then you can stand firm against the devil’s evil plans. Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world.

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

This insurgence has spread more rapidly and more broadly than the Arab Spring. It has enacted more lasting change than the fall of the Iron Curtain. Initial sparks have grown into a global firestorm. Millions of spiritual troops have arisen in this battle: to date, 73 million new disciples from within the harvest; prisoners of the devil in the past, steadfast proclaimers of Jesus today.

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

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

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven. It said, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God have come. The authority of his Christ has come. Satan, who brings charges against our brothers and sisters, has been thrown down. He brings charges against them before our God day and night.  They overcame him because the Lamb gave His life’s blood for them. They overcame him by giving witness about Jesus to others. They were willing to risk their lives, even if it led to death.”  —Rev. 12:10–11 NIRV

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

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

They are in a war for the souls of people and are willing to ignore unbiblical restraints of human theological and denominational traditions. Unfortunately, sometimes they are opposed by some church leaders who have misunderstood their different expressions of how to live as authentic disciples of the King.

They believe that all disciples are empowered and commissioned to reach the world, not just pastors and missionaries. These disciples have chosen to believe that disciples, churches, leaders and movements can multiply as movements of the Spirit, just as they did in the early church. They have chosen to obey the commands of Christ and receive the same authority and Spirit-empowerment as 2000 years ago.

Church Planting Movements (CPMs) are spreading again today just as they did in the book of Acts and at various times in history. They are not a new phenomenon but an old one. They are a return to basic biblical discipleship that all disciples of Jesus can emulate, as:

1) followers of Jesus and 2) fishers for people. (Mark 1:17)

On every continent, where it was once said “A CPM can’t happen here,” movements are spreading.

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

These movements are the only way we have found historically for the kingdom of God to grow faster than the population. Without them, even good ministry efforts result in losing ground. (See the article, “Daring to Succeed,” starting on page 24.)

The tide of this renewed effort is surging forward with unstoppable force. This insurgence is no passing fad. With 25+ years of reproducing churches, the number of CPMs has multiplied from a mere handful in the 1990s to 950+ as of May 2019, with more being reported each month. Each movement’s advance has been won with great endurance and sacrifice.

This mission—to start kingdom movements in every unreached people and place—comes with real casualties of persecution. This is an ultimate struggle to see the name of Jesus prevail in every place, so He is worshipped by all peoples. This mission costs everything, and it is worth it! He is worth it.

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

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

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

We cry out:  Your kingdom come! (movements)

No place left! (fully reaching all Rom. 15:23) Finishing what others have started!

(honoring those before us)

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

Through prayer, we as the 24:14 Coalition were led by God to aim for movements in every unreached people and place.

We felt God gave us an initial goal and a deadline to increase urgency: We are praying and serving to see a kingdom movement (CPM) engagement in every unreached people and place by December 31, 2025.

We are not a Western-centric initiative. We are composed of house church movements from South Asia, Muslim background movements from the 10/40 window, mission sending agencies, church-planting networks in post-modern regions, established churches, intercessor networks and many more. We are a coalition of CPM practitioners not waiting for a plan from executive leadership (though many executives are on board).

We are inspired by a call for a wartime mentality to sacrifice alongside brothers and sisters, to see the gospel proclaimed throughout the world as a witness to all peoples.

This coalition is standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. We are reaping the results (where we have not sown) of millions of sacrificial intercessors and witnesses throughout the centuries.

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

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

  1. REACH the UNREACHED: In line with Matthew 24:14, bringing the gospel of the kingdom to every 0unreached people and place.
  2. THROUGH CPMs: Fully reaching them through biblical Kingdom Movements of multiplying disciples, churches, leaders and movements.
  3. WITH URGENCY BY 2025: Doing so with a wartime urgency by the end of 2025 in the power of the Spirit, no matter what it costs us.
  4. We COLLABORATE with others in the 24:14 community so we can make progress together. 

We are in a spiritual war, though most believers seem to live as if in peace. As long as God’s people slumber, the enemy wreaks havoc in communities, churches, relationships and personal discipleship. Priorities, time and focus remain dissipated. No D-Day objective looms. No great mission prevails, so sacrifice remains minimal or nonexistent. Yet were the whole church to wake up to a wartime mindset, the gates of hell would quake! (Matt. 16:18) The 73 million (and growing) grassroots troops who have come to faith in these CPMs are spreading the good news globally. As stories of God’s breakthroughs trickle into churches around the world, reinforcements arise to go out into the battlefields. The slumbering giant of the global church needs to wake up. But this giant must not awaken with a peacetime mindset. This is no business model for comfortable church growth; this is spiritual warfare.

Our mission has three key elements. First, we need to discern the gaps where movement engagements are lacking. Second, the most effective troops to start new movements are leaders from existing movements. As a global church we need to prioritize prayer, personnel and funds to support existing CPMs in sending out messengers to unengaged areas to start new CPMs. Third, we need to help train, deploy, and coach new movement catalysts to the places and peoples that existing movements cannot serve.


Keeping these three priorities in focus will allow us to achieve the initial goal of movement engagement and overall purpose of movements in every unreached people and place.

Of the 17,000+ people groups and 7000+ unreached people groups, we estimate that about 2,500 of them are already effectively engaged with CPM strategies. That leaves the vast majority still needing purposeful CPM initiatives. But we need to look more closely than the macro-level of a major people group or city. We are utilizing a list of nearly 43,000 global districts overlaid with these people group lists. Globally, that may be as many as 80,000 geographical and ethnolinguistic segments of the world needing movements. As you read this, global researchers are compiling sensitive data from CPM practitioners to identify which population segments have movements and movement engagements and which still need them.

2025 is not the end. It is just the beginning of the end. We need CPM catalysts in every one of these 80,000 segments sacrificially committed to the war effort of spreading God’s kingdom through movements. Once catalysts are 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.

Jesus didn’t intend his Great Commission for just a subgroup of his followers, but for everyone who knows him as their Savior. He calls every believer to play a role in finishing the task.

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

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

We invite you to be a part of the revolution! Here are some ways to join the battle.


See to learn more, watch vision casting videos and find on-ramps to join this wartime effort.


24:14 is tracking the engagement of around 80,000 targets of people groups and places that we will engage with a movement engagement by 2025. Help us understand the gaps by reporting where you are engaged and the progress there. (Visit


Prayer movements always coincide with Church Planting Movements. We have put together a detailed explanation of how you can be involved in prayer for the 24:14 Vision (


While 24:14 is a global band of volunteers, financial resources are needed for special initiatives, collaboration of movement catalysts, training leaders, and mobilizing national believers to cascade movements to new unreached areas. See projects we are working on (Visit give)


24:14 has a list of roles that must be filled in order to make the 2025 vision a reality. A complete list can be found at (Scroll to “How You Can Get Involved,” choose the option that fits you and navigate to the Be a Part of the Community page)


Get trained to effectively start CPMs, whether across an ocean or in your backyard. 24:14 has a network of home hubs and field hubs to provide a pathway for reaching a UPG, starting in your local context. Browsing 2414now. net/hubs will give you complete information on getting involved.

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

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

The Marriage of Excellent Strategy and the Supernatural

The Marriage of  Excellent Strategy and the Supernatural

When we arrived at their home, his wife ushered us in. “Please sit down,” she said. The room was tiny and dark. We bent down to enter the low doorway and saw him lying on the bed. From the dark corner came groans of pain.

“What is wrong?” we asked.

His wife replied. “The doctor says he has a kidney stone. It’s been several days now. He is suffering so greatly!”

We shared with them both that Jesus is a God who heals. Laying our hands gently on him, we asked the Lord to help him pass the stone. We commanded his body to be made whole. After sharing a few words of hope, we left to visit another person in the community.

A few days later we returned to their tiny home. The man who’d been in such pain was sitting outside fixing a bamboo mat. “You look much better,” we said. He smiled broadly.

“The day you prayed for me in Jesus’ name, I was healed! Just an hour or so later, I passed the stone. Your God is very powerful!” he declared.

This man soon became a Jesus-follower, together with his wife. A weekly fellowship was started in the tiny courtyard in front of their home. Neighbors came to hear what God had done. Many began to listen in on the Bible story group that began. The kingdom was advancing!

Supernatural Miracles Don’t Always Lead to Movements

Jerry Trousdale wrote about the danger of secularism in the March/April 2019 issue of Mission Frontiers. One of the reasons the church in the West has not seen many Disciple Making Movements is because of anti-supernaturalism. The call to combat secularism and embrace a greater openness to the supernatural is needed indeed.

In Asia and Africa, this isn’t as much of an issue as in the West. People in the non-western world are far more open to signs and wonders.  It is much easier to integrate healing the sick and casting out demons into the life of a typical disciple. In quite a few countries, 80 or 90 percent of people come to faith through a healing miracle.

Even in those countries, however, the reality is this. Though we see dramatic miracles and even conversions through miracles, we don’t always see movements result. Often, these healings happen in crusades with little follow up. Even if they take place through a personal connection, without a strategy for multiplying disciples and disciple-making groups, dramatic miracles only result in limited growth.


It’s Both

Demonstrations of God’s power combined with a clear multiplication strategy for discipleship releases movements. One without the other will not get you there. In Jesus’ life, we see the beautiful blending of these two things: signs and wonders with intentional disciplemaking. It was not one or the other, but both/and.

Are We Following Jesus’ Model?

1. Jesus regularly demonstrated the kingdom of God through signs and wonders.

As we read the gospels, we “watch” Jesus perform many, many miracles. There are thirty-seven clearly recorded in Scripture. Demonstrating love and power was His every-day lifestyle. It was normal for Jesus to show people who God was through practical and supernatural acts of kindness (miracles).

Why do we hesitate to live the same way? Fear of failure is one inhibitor. We may have had past experiences where God didn’t do what we hoped for. These painful memories stand in our way. Or perhaps we fear turning people off by giving them hope for something we can’t make happen apart from God’s intervention. If God doesn’t do that thing, we feel responsible for their disappointment.

Let’s ask ourselves about the worst-case scenario here. What if we did pray and nothing happened?

When we demonstrate love and faith, we can believe God will act. But even if there isn’t a dramatic, instant miracle, when we pray for needy people, they encounter God. They sense His presence. These things open their hearts toward Him. And what if God did intervene and a miracle happened? Not only is their problem solved, but they are now fertile soil, ready for the seed of the gospel.

Chris Galanos in his book Megachurch to Multiplication, encourages those he trains to ask people this question, “If God could do a miracle for you today, what would you want Him to do?” Then, when they share, the disciplemakers pray for those needs.

We must not hesitate to involve God in what we are doing. We should anticipate Him demonstrating His love to people in supernatural ways! He is still the same God we read about in the Bible. As we step out in faith, God will show up and meet the needs of those we are praying for.

Community Development vs. Supernatural Miracles

Some who are uncomfortable with the miraculous instead look for practical human ways to meet needs. I am all for doing community development projects to serve the communities we want to reach. But we must admit that demonstrations of power are much more the biblical norm than setting up a medical clinic. I say, “Why not do both?” As we do what is possible for us (giving medical care for example), we also ask God to release miracles of healing.

When we worked in India we saw many people healed through a combination of prayer and medicine. Nothing wrong with that at all! The important thing is for people to see the love and power of Jesus clearly demonstrated through these efforts.

Mark 16:17 says, “These signs will accompany those who believe…” (NIV.) It doesn’t say might or perhaps. It says they will! Seeing miracles (big or small) happen through us is part of what it means to live our lives as Jesus followers.

When was the last time you prayed in faith that someone would be healed? What miracles are you asking Him for?

2. Jesus multiplied disciples. He chose, trained, and released his mentees quickly.

In the gospels, we read of Jesus’ brief ministry on earth. It is surprising, when you think about it, that He only played an active ministry role for three years. That seems a very short amount of time to see a ministry firmly established!

From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus knew He would leave. His long-term plan included intentional multiplication. He chose the twelve then invested in training them. Jesus interacted with the multitudes, but much of His time was spent in training His twelve disciples. He prepared them to carry on His work because He knew He would soon leave.

In Luke 9, Jesus gave an assignment to the 12. He told them to go to villages and tell everyone about the kingdom of God. They had been watching Him do miracles and minister. Now, it was their turn. When they returned, they were to report back to Him for feedback and further training.

Jesus taught His disciples in an up close and personal way. His discipleship was responsive, not random. He had clear goals and knew exactly where He was headed in developing these men. Shockingly, before any of us would have said they were ready, He passed the leadership baton to them. He not only stepped back temporarily but physically left so they could carry on the work. God believed in that rag-tag crew of fishermen and taxcollectors enough to give them huge levels of both authority and responsibility.

Movement leaders around the world follow Christ’s example. They intentionally raise up others and then release them to do the work. Strategic and intentional discipleship needs to be part of the plan.

Beyond Raising the Dead

Dan*and his wife are church planters in India. By God’s grace, they have launched a movement in their area. When I first met Dan, I was quite impressed. It was quickly apparent that he was a man of great faith.

As we talked further, he shared an incredible story. While pioneering in a new city, they prayed for a lady who had just died from a heart attack. Miraculously, she came back to life! Through this astounding event, many hearts were opened to the gospel message. Dan was welcomed into homes and invited to share the gospel in many places as a result. The work grew, but it was still stuck at only first-generation growth. This was true in spite of the great receptivity they experienced.

Seeing this, I was able to help Dan get further training in DMM principles. He developed a discipleship plan for multiplication. He learned how to train trainers and disciple-makers rather than doing all the work himself. Instead of praying for all the sick people himself, he trained every disciple to pray for those who were ill. As his trainees did this, they too saw miracles happen.

He also trained them how to start new groups of disciples. They learned what steps to take with new believers so they would quickly become powerful disciple-makers too.

Before having a plan, his discipleship was random. After he put a system in place for simple discipleship lessons and trained everyone to use them, things began to grow rapidly. Multi-generational growth began. (Read more of Dan’s story and an interview with him on

For Dan, raising someone from the dead was a great miracle. It definitely was a catalyst. But without a discipleship plan, the growth would have been limited to the movement leader’s availability. The movement would not have multiplied as it has.

Integrate the Two

Which comes more naturally for you? Praying for the sick and seeing miracles – including casting out demons? Or honing your “End Vision” statement, crafting discipleship materials, and other similar tasks?

Be willing to grow in both areas, even if it doesn’t feel natural. Ask God to help you develop in both faith and strategic planning. You can staff your weakness and recruit others into your team who are strong in areas you are not. Balancing and integrating these two is important in releasing and sustaining Disciple Making Movements (DMMs). Aim for an integrated approach. You will be amazed at what God does!



This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

The Beginning of Another 40 Years: From 1979 and the US Center to 2019 and Frontier Ventures Centers

The Beginning of Another 40 Years: From 1979 and the US Center to 2019 and Frontier Ventures Centers

By now I am sure many of our Mission Frontiers colleagues and family have heard about the decision to sell part of the WCIU campus and a small portion of Frontier Ventures’ Pasadena property to EF, Education First ( The sale has now closed and includes the nearly 15 acres of the campus itself, the field we refer to as the soccer field and an additional 16 housing units that were right next to the campus. That leaves more than 130 housing units and Hudson Taylor Hall (HTH) still under the ownership of WCIU (the houses) and FV (HTH).

For some, among our colleagues, friends, and members, including people who gave funds for the purchase, there have been questions about our original purposes and whether this sale has moved us away from those purposes, or even whether the sale represents a fundamental violation of why we purchased the campus to begin with. Some among this group of stakeholders in our vision say that selling this portion of the property means we were selling out the vision.

However, other colleagues, friends, and members, including some who gave funds for the purchase of the property, have told us they see this as a wise and even natural step. Some have used the word “bold.” These friends see the decision as a response to changing conditions globally, in the mission world, in trends in collaboration, and in how organizations function today, more than 40 years after the original purchase and vision. Some in this group of stakeholders say that selling this portion of the property means we are investing in the continued future of the vision.

How does all of this line up with our past and the original vision for the USCWM (now Frontier Ventures) and WCIU? And what is our future?

Looking Back 40 Years to Look Ahead for Another 40

With the help of colleagues, I have compiled some of what Dr. Ralph Winter said about the campus and the founding purposes of our movement. Drawing from older Mission Frontiers articles stretching back 40 years to 1979, I have pulled some of Dr. Winter’s reflections about the purposes and vision of our movement. And I will weave around those comments statements about at least some of what we see as our purpose and focus moving forward.

While there are new elements in what I will share, there is a deep continuation of the original as well. I am inviting you to walk with me from the past into the future.

 From 1979:

Speaking of the original vision, Dr. Winter said it was to:

…establish a center in the U.S. which will study, evaluate, and assist all mission efforts in a constructive and helpful way, to move dynamically and decisively to push back the barriers limiting present efforts and penetrate the last 16,750 human groupings within which there is not yet a culturally relevant church.

The vision for refocusing the attention of believers in Jesus to see clearly the status of the least reached has always been and remains the central defining point in our vision and action.

Today we can give thanks that almost every major agency and many smaller and lesser known agencies, have as a central purpose reaching the unreached. The tide of awareness turned in a major way.

However, at the same time, as we have described in recent communications in MF and on the Joshua Project site, there remains a startling reality: what we are calling “Frontier Peoples,” those unreached peoples with fewer than .1% believers, and no known movements emerging among them.

One of our primary objectives is to form collaborative communities that will innovate and mobilize and train in such ways that movements will emerge in the 31 largest of these Frontier Peoples, including four such movements by July 2020.

That is a purpose that will continue beyond 2020, shaping our path for the next 40 years.

In the same writing, Dr. Winter referred also to “sister centers” and went on to say:

We are not presuming for a moment that Americans will be or should be the only answer to the unfinished task of missions. It is a wonderful fact that we can confidently assume that Christians in every land are as willing as we are to try and fulfill the Great Commission. This vision of multiple centers is something very much at the fore of our vision still. We have a goal of establishing at least three new Regional Hubs, which will be the locus points of what continue to be the hallmarks of our ministry: collaboration, innovation, mobilization and training.

We are already well under way towards a first Asia Hub, the first of perhaps many such hubs in Asia, and a Hub in the northeast USA. We are also reorganizing in Pasadena to form a Southern California Hub (a distinct group of our members from the normal operations located in Pasadena) focused on three main tasks:

+  selecting a UPG from one of the diaspora peoples here and collaborating with others to see a movement begin

+  forming a team to come alongside those in the area working on the frontlines with other UPGs

+  and encouraging ongoing research to learn more about the other UPGs here

We have always sought to mobilize the Body of Christ to focus on the least reached, and we continue now to do the same, including new devotion to mobilization closer to where the remaining unreached peoples are, mobilization focused on the newer sending movements we see in the majority world, and mobilization focused on the newer movements to Jesus emerging in proximity to remaining UPGs.

From our earliest days, we have had the vision of Pasadena as one of many “centers” and today we are pressing forward intentionally towards that end. Keeping a footprint here is necessary for that. Having a different footprint here is also necessary for that.

From MF in 1983:

Dr. Winter drafted an “Open Letter” in Mission Frontiers to answer a question he posed, “Why do you need a campus?” His first answers have to do with knowing Him and knowing ourselves more deeply through the process of the purchase:

Our struggling efforts to secure this campus as a frontier missions base have pressed us close to His breast, we better see His greatness, His majesty, His holiness, His sufficiency, His love for the nations, and His determination to bless the peoples through men and women He has earlier blessed.

And: Our growing knowledge of Him has provided us with the fresh opportunity to see ourselves…The experience has not always been pleasant, for we have discovered our weakness, our fickleness, our lack of discipline, and our sin, but He has been faithful…The cleansed community will be ‘an Instrument for noble purposes’, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

This resonates deeply with me today.

In recent years, within WCIU and FV, we have been on a further journey into these two dimensions: knowing more of Him and more of ourselves. We are re-visioning what it means to be a missionary-religious order (one of Dr. Winter’s main aims for us) in this season of our life. For long we have been a very task oriented order, but we are being pressed closer to Him, and seeing His call to be a people who are formed and transformed, people whose very “beings” and not just “doings” are being made instruments for His purposes among the nations.

This emphasis is a key part in our training for new staff. There is a deep focus on the spiritual formation of our members within community. 

Speaking of those purposes, Dr. Winter went on to say:

Out of such lessons has come a new grasp of the purposes of God. Indeed, these purposes have grasped us. We press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. As sons and daughters of Abraham and joint heirs with his glorious descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ, we accept no mandate less than one to bless all the families of the earth, to make disciples of all nations. This dominating theme of Scripture has become our mainspring.

As in the past so now, this takes specific shape. In specific actions and programs.

Related specifically to this desire to press in to knowing Him more deeply, and ourselves more accurately, we are reforming our organizational life around what we call “covenant communities.” These are small bands of members and non-members, sprinkled around the world, who share the same values and who seek together to pursue spiritual formation as a bedrock from which our purposes among the unreached are pursued.

So far, we have formed seven such covenant communities, and our aim is for 15 by July 2020.

From MF in 1985:

Dr. Winter once again highlighted the vision of multiple centers:

… it is expected that if this Center succeeds, similar centers will no doubt spring into being in other countries (both Western and non-Western) where substantial resources and interest in missions exist, and it will be part of the mission of the United States Center for World Mission to encourage such centers and to relate to them.

I have already spoken above about these and our goal of Hubs. But I want to say more here about one of the main reasons for these Hubs.

We have always sought to be innovative and to do what others were not doing (also a legacy from our origins), but today our innovation efforts have a more intentional, spiritual, and developed process to them, given structure and form in the “Launch Lab.” The Launch Lab is an initiative devoted to an intentional, collaborative process of innovation in which a barrier to the progress of the gospel is identified, and new possible solutions proposed and launched in order to overcome that barrier.

How does this connect with our multi-centralization closer to the action among the least reached?

In April, we began collaborating with the leadership of a large movement in South Asia, working with them to identify barriers in reaching a proximate frontier people group, and develop new approaches to reach them.

In 1985 Dr. Winter also made reference to WCIU, as “…a university dedicated specifically to world need.” Thus, he was already signaling the shift from his earlier vision of WCIU as a “seminary in a suitcase” to a university offering high quality, distance based, degrees to enhance the effectiveness of scholar practitioners in the field of transformational development.

Dr. Winter always envisioned this as including BA, MA, and PhD levels. Currently we are working very hard to complete what it takes for the MA to be accredited.

WCIU has vacated the campus itself, but not Pasadena, shifting our academic team across the street to Hudson Taylor Hall. And we continue to pursue quality and innovation as a university.

For example, our Translation Studies focus is one of the few programs in the field rooted in the “cognitive inferential” theory of communication and translation. This program was developed with significant input from the field, not just field workers, but from leaders of movements who need such translations and whose leadership include those who need the training we are offering.

From MF in 1993:

In a series of questions and answers Dr. Winter touched on several areas.

When asked, “what was your founding purpose?”

he replied,

From the very beginning we have had no other purpose than to promote missions to the ends of the earth, especially where Christ is not named, and to do so by promoting the existing mission agencies, helping them in every way possible and mobilizing American churches behind them.

We still focus on mobilization in this vein but have now included as our foci, as we described above, some of the newer sending movements in the majority world and some of the emerging movements among unreached peoples. This is why we are pressing out to multiple centers globally, to be closer to where those movements are happening.

Dr. Winter was also asked, “How did you plan to do that?” He replied, 

We set out to buy a former college campus in Pasadena, California as a base, where missionary staff, on loan from many agencies, could work together and do many things in common, without duplicating efforts, serving the mission industry.

That collaborative vision, in its original form, faced unforeseen challenges as every bold step does. It is instructive to see how Dr. Winter reflected on those challenges 20 years after the initial launch.

From MF in 1999:

Dr. Winter expressed his recognition that to a great extent this collaboration vision of different organizations and loaned missionaries did not materialize.

The potential errors of judgment in the area of cooperation are best known to me in the area of the U.S. Center for World Mission and our own nearly-25-year attempt to catalyze all kinds of inter-agency cooperation… when we began we thought that for us to do ‘generic mobilization and research’ for all agencies would be an idea that would be instantly heralded and supported. Pastors and people in the U.S. were enthusiastic--and that is how we were enabled to acquire this campus. The agencies? We assumed agencies would lend personnel to work with us if we just got a large enough set of facilities. It did not fully happen the way we expected.

For a season, there were some organizations which came to the campus to collaborate, but over the years this became too expensive an option for most. Organizations began to depart for other cities. There have been more recent examples of attempts at collaboration, but with varied definitions of what the word collaboration means and expectations for how this related to a presence on a campus.

This is yet another reason that we have elected to respond to changing realities by repositioning ourselves globally.

We are not decentralizing as much as multi-centralizing.

We will remain with a large footprint in Pasadena where we continue to collaborate, innovate, mobilize, and train. At the same time, we need to adjust our organizational approach to respond closer to the action in places closer to the least reached (including where the unreached are within reach in diaspora contexts). Thus, our focus on a first Asia Hub.

Another reason for the original purpose was the desire to become self-sustaining through the income from the rent earned. While this is still viable for the housing we continue to own, over time it became less viable for the campus. The sale proceeds provide an endowment in a different form that still gives the same aim of a sustainable income stream, in a different and blended financial model.

And now…?

I have stated explicitly three of our main short-term objectives: four movements among the 31 largest Frontier Peoples, three regional hubs, and 15 covenant communities.

But of course, we are doing more. I will close with just one example.

I am very aware of a large group of friends, well-wishers, and stakeholders with whom we have not maintained the sort of ongoing communication that is deserved. This includes those who were part of the “Last Thousand Campaign” which enabled the final, miraculous push to complete the original purchase.

We made promises to those who gave in response to that push. And I intend for us to keep those promises. Towards that end, I am assembling a team and we are already at work synchronizing the databases we have so that we can begin to reconnect.

Meanwhile, if you were part of the Last Thousand Campaign, I invite you to communicate directly with me at [email protected].

Finally, I am aware that in our earliest years, everything we did was bathed in and offered up to Him in prayer. Please join me in continuing that high calling and priority as we turn towards our next 40 years.

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

In Memory of Dr. Steve Smith March 11, 1962–March 13, 2019

In Memory of Dr. Steve Smith March 11, 1962–March 13, 2019

After decades of faithful service furthering the gospel across the world, Dr. Steve Smith, 57, died on March 13, 2019 after battling liver cancer which may have been caused by a parasite he contracted while on the mission field.

He and his wife Laura served with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptists for 18 years and spent a great deal of that time in Asia.  He began work with the IMB in East Asia, successfully fostering a Church Planting Movement. He also served as a supervisor and consultant for Church Planting Movements across the region. 

A prolific writer, Steve developed a number of publications for training and use among organizations advancing the gospel through movements.  Along with colleague Ying Kai and his wife Grace, he wrote T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution, a training guide in the biblical principles behind Church Planting Movements. T4T is short for “Training for Trainers” and is used around the world for purposes of leadership development, evangelism, discipleship and church planting. He also authored the No Place Left saga of two novels; Hastening and Rebirth. His most recently published book is Spirit Walk, The Extraordinary Power of Acts for Ordinary People, available on Amazon. Steve also wrote a regular column entitled Kingdom Kernels for Mission Frontiers magazine (

Upon his retirement from IMB, Steve served as the vice president of multiplication for East-West Ministries (, as a co-leader of the 24:14 Coalition ( and with Beyond as a global movement catalyst (

Steve was born in California at Hamilton Air Force Base and grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana.  He felt called to full-time Christian ministry shortly after high school and completed his undergraduate degree at Baylor University in Waco, Texas and his Master of Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He also received his master’s and doctorate of theology degrees at the University of South Africa.

While still in school, he served as a pastor at Vaughan Baptist Church in Vaughan, Texas, and taught Sunday school at the Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth while he was attending the university and seminary. After finishing seminary, he and his wife Laura planted and he pastored the North University Park Church in inner city Los Angeles for 10 years.

Smith is survived by his wife and three grown sons: Cris, David, Josh and wife, Caroline, and twin grandsons.

His memorial service was held March 16, 2019 at WoodsEdge Community Church in Spring, Texas.

Honoring Our Friend and Brother, Steve Smith

 By Stan Parks

The things we loved about Steve Smith were reflections of Jesus in him. Our family had the privilege of becoming close friends with the Smith family when we all lived in Singapore and were part of a house church and lived life together. Our son, Seth, wrote this about Steve: “Through Steve I learned that Jesus’ truth was synonymous with His love. As I saw an unworldly, unnatural, amazing love pour out of Steve’s mouth and actions, I eventually saw the truth it stemmed from…. the truth of Galatians 2:20 hit me and I saw Steve, but more importantly I saw Christ living in him.”

Steve made the commitment in high school to surrender himself completely to God. He sought to live out the truth in Galatians 2:20 that, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NIV)

The last thing Steve would want is for us to idolize him. He was very aware of his own failures and shortcomings. He knew that his worth came not from his accomplishments as a missionary, a trainer, or a writer, but from being adopted as a son of our heavenly Father.

As his son Cris said at the memorial service, Steve was the same at home as he was in public. He loved his family and friends well and he loved to serve them. He also loved God’s Word and often shared insights from the Scriptures that helped us better understand how God’s Word applied in different situations and at different times in our lives.

I also am touched by memories of seeing up close: the beautiful love between Steve and Laura; the amazing ways he mentored and loved his sons, Cris, Josh and David; his deep love for his daughter-in-law Caroline; and the great joy God gave him through his grandsons, Jim and Jack. 

Steve also loved well the lost and unreached people of the world – those without access to the Good News of Jesus who had changed his own life. He and Laura gave their best to bring the gospel to those they met in college and seminary and those they served in Los Angeles. When God led them from LA to the nations, Steve read the book of Acts over and over again. He asked God to do the same thing among the unreached people group they served in Asia. When Steve agonized over persecution of the evangelists and believers, God reassured him that this was their sacrifice for Him. Bringing the gospel and helping others bring the gospel to these remote communities was a time of great joy for their family.

After a book of Acts movement broke out among this people group, Steve transitioned to training, coaching and writing. He longed to help the global body give our best to see every unreached people group have an Acts-like encounter with God.

In 2010, Steve helped draw together 38 Church Planting Movement (CPM) Catalysts who were seeing God start amazing movements. For the first time we realized that perhaps movements could be more than just occasional phenomena. They could become a widespread reality around the world!

In 2017, Steve helped convene meetings of key CPM advocates: field catalysts, mission agency leaders, intercessors, and church leaders. As God spoke to these groups and others around the world, the 24:14 Vision was born.

Matthew 24:14 tells us that:

This good news of the King’s reign will be heralded throughout the whole world as a testimony to all peoples, and then the end will come. (Steve’s translation).

The 24:14 family consists of people all over the world who believe that Kingdom Movements are the best way God has given us to fulfill the Great Commission. The best way to make disciples of every people group (ethnē) is with His presence and authority. (Matt. 28:19)

Steve’s great desire was to see the Great Commission fulfilled. He longed to see Matthew 24:14 happen in our generation.

If you want to honor Steve but more importantly honor Jesus, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, then Steve has handed the baton to you. Steve would invite you to join many of his brothers and sisters around the world to make the 24:14 COMMITMENT by doing four things:

1.         Commit to fully reaching the UNREACHED peoples and places of the earth

2.         Reach them through CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT strategies

3.         Engage them with URGENT SACRIFICE by 2025

4.         COLLABORATE with others in the 24:14 movement to do this together.

We rejoice that Steve is now with God, whom he loved with such a great love. We pray for his family and we grieve for ourselves as we miss him. But we look forward to the day we are reunited as part of our Father’s heavenly family. We want to hasten the day of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:12) that results in a new heaven and a new earth – when people from every tribe, tongue, nation and language join in worshipping God. (Rev. 7:9-12)

Following is a letter to Steve Smith from one life he impacted. 

Dear Steve,

We have never met face-to-face, but your life and your work have impacted me more than you could ever know.

About six years ago, I read T4T and it absolutely wrecked my life.  I’ve been living in India for about 11 years and had no concept of multiplication or movements until reading your book with Bro. Ying.  Since then, we have been running after movements as much as we can.  Although it’s not quite at the level of some others in the same amount of time, we’ve seen 2,566 new house churches started in five years.  Praise God!

Since reading T4T, I read the No Place Left series as well.  I cannot tell you how much that impacted the vision for my life and ministry.  Shortly after, I joined up with NPL and 24:14 and have been running hard after No Place Left ever since.

After reading your wife’s most recent update, I felt led by the Spirit to write you an email.

I know how much your heart bleeds for 24:14 — to see the return of Christ and to see the task completed. And you will, brother.  You will.  And it will be even more glorious from where you will be sitting.

I wanted to let you know that you have done an amazing job running with the torch of No Place Left.  You’ve done such an amazing job that countless thousands have been lit ablaze by the torch that you carried.  There are thousands across the globe that now carry the fire that you have in your heart.  And that fire will not stop.  This WILL be the generation that completes the task.  What started with your flame, will continue to spread from heart to heart, from village to village, and from nation to nation.  On behalf of all of the other NPLers out there, I just want you to know that we’ve got this.  We’re continuing the race.  We’re spreading the flame.  And we won’t stop until the job is done.  You can count on us.

Save us a spot near the throne.  It’s going to be crowded up there because of your work.  We want a good spot! grin

We love you brother and are eternally grateful for all you’ve done.

Rest easy, my friend.  Your work will continue… Until We Meet on the Other Side,


This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

Dr. Steve Smith’s Extraordinary Vision and Legacy

Dr. Steve Smith’s Extraordinary Vision and Legacy

Early in the first decade of this century, the Holy Spirit guided and empowered Steve Smith in launching a Church Planting Movement among a minority people group in East Asia.

Steve then teamed up with Ying Kai to write T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution: The Story Behind the World’s Fastest Growing Church Planting Movement and How it Can Happen in Your Community! Steve went on to supervise and coach many others in starting similar movements.

Through these experiences Steve came to a deep conviction that with a return to biblical ministry methods and reliance on the Holy Spirit, our generation could play a key role in fulfilling the human side of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 24:14.

In November 2015, Steve released the first book in his No Place Left saga, a story he had written 20 years earlier as a young pastor—urging an all-out effort, with urgency, to fulfill the Great Commission by 2025.

Supported by a global prayer network, extraordinary trust relationships and collaborative learning, in its first two years the 24:14 Coalition has found that God’s Spirit has been moving well beyond what Steve envisioned. Over the past 25 years, nearly 1% of the world’s population have become disciples within rapidly multiplying movements of churches, mostly among unreached people groups.

Through the tireless efforts of Steve and others, the 24:14 Coalition is now wellestablished, and maturing rapidly into what may become the most fruitful network in history. Before God called him home, Steve fueled more fruitful reliance on the Holy Spirit through his final book, Spirit Walk: The Extraordinary Power of Acts for Ordinary People.

An anonymous poem in tribute to Steve’s impact is posted at, along with a complimentary copy of Hastening, links to many of Steve’s Mission Frontiers articles, and a one-minute video clip of Steve calling for a sense of urgency in running the final lap of history.

The following adaptation from Steve’s book Hastening, Book One of the No Place Left saga reveals much of the perspective driving Steve’s passion.

Christopher and Chara sat on the ancient sofa, knees and shoulders touching. It was dark outside, but a pair of lamps cast a warm glow across the room. They were grateful to be home with their closest friends—John and Renee on the well-worn love seat, and Nic and Stacy on the two folding chairs.

On the table in front of the sofa lay the precious photocopy of the Livermore dissertation that Christopher and Chara had gone to England to track down.

After a relaxed time of praising God, listening for His voice and asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, Renee leaned forward and read aloud: “‘The Collapse of the Military Metaphor in the Mission of the Early Church, and the Resulting Stalemate in the Advance of the Gospel.’ A dissertation by M. J. Livermore. 1898. Sounds interesting. Have you read it yet?”

“Yes!” Christopher said, “and it was very convicting! Let me start tonight’s discussion, by summarizing it for you.”

“The early Church advanced rapidly— supernaturally fast—through most of the first century. At that rate, the known world would have been evangelized within just a few centuries!”

“But then a major shift occurred,” Chara added. “And world evangelization slowed to a crawl. Even though the pace picked up in the 1800s, Livermore showed it still lagged far behind that first century. It had become a mission by the few rather than a mission by the whole Church.”

“Exactly,” John said. “The early Church had no Bible or buildings, yet it grew like wildfire. I have studied several efforts to explain the difference, but all seem to be lacking something. What does Livermore say?”

“Her analysis is brilliant,” Christopher said. “Her Salvation Army upbringing helped her see the wartime mindset of the New Testament Church, in which everyone lived as a spiritual soldier seeking to advance God’s kingdom.” Chris paused to sip his coffee.

“This is crazy!” Nic said. “I’ve been reading ahead for our Perspectives class, and Dr. Winter has an article on this same theme. Hold on…”

Nic leafed through his book. “Yeah, here it is. “Reconsecration to a Wartime, Not a Peacetime, Lifestyle.”  Winter says here that, when outfitted for war, the Queen Mary housed fifteen thousand soldiers, even though it only had room for three thousand passengers as a peacetime luxury liner. Winter’s point is that we believers are living with a peacetime mindset today.”

“Exactly,” Christopher said. “The Allies won World War II only through the same kind of allout investment and focus that characterized the first-century believers in advancing God’s kingdom. Both the Allies and those early believers understood they weren’t just pursuing a task at their leisure, but fighting to win very real wars.

“My grandmother used to tell us about the war. Everyone did something, and everything was rationed. Every able-bodied man joined the fight, and those who didn’t felt ashamed. Women worked in the factories because the men were all at war. School kids saved their money to buy war bonds. Nothing was wasted. Everything was recycled. And everyone was mobilized. This is the kind of ‘all in’ mindset the early Church also had for their spiritual war.”

Setting down his mug, Christopher stood and began pacing. “The early believers set their hearts on heaven. They didn’t worry about having the latest comforts or electronic gadgets.”

“They deliberately simplified their lives so they could focus on the spiritual battle,” Nic said.

Chara’s face lit up. “And they weren’t just conscious of the spiritual conflict; they knew they were going to win the war, and that their beloved Commander in Chief could show up any day. That’s what fueled their sense of urgency.”

A frown creased Renee’s brow as she sipped her coffee. “Things are so different now. When’s the last time I thought about Jesus’ return?”

“Exactly,” Stacy added. “I’m distracted by so many things!” “We have lost sight of the war, and reduced the Great Commission into a task to be completed at our leisure,” John said. “‘What’s the rush?’ we think. ‘Why sacrifice everything for God’s kingdom when it could be another two thousand years before He returns?’”0“Right,” Nic said. We don’t feel any urgency, and it’s been that way for a long time. We have settled into a peacetime mentality.”Christopher continued pacing. “Livermore said that by the time Christianity became the state religion of Rome, the Church had become more focused on arguing theology than on obeying Jesus’ command to disciple all nations. The central mission of the Church had been reduced from the rallying battle cry to just another activity.”

“Precisely!” Stacy cried. “Jesus’ central command has been marginalized!”

“Just imagine,” John added, “if Jesus’ commission were posted at the top of our church’s website, bulletin board and weekly program. What if it were foremost in our minds as we plan our Men’s Breakfasts, Grief Groups, Moms for Moms, potlucks, and even car wash fundraisers.”

“Livermore’s dissertation,” Christopher continued, “contained several more really thought-provoking ideas. She said Revelation was given to John—the last surviving apostle—to remind the Church God had not forgotten the mission, and neither should they. Revelation is God’s reminder to each generation that He’s still in control, and His promise that His Kingdom will prevail. It holds Christ’s marching orders for His body—to inspire His Church to ever greater exploits. Unfortunately, most believers either ignore Revelation or miss this central point while trying to interpret the symbolism to predict future events.

 “Livermore asserted that the only way to complete our God-given commission is fullscale mobilization of the global Church for spiritual battle, fueled by expectant faith in the imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christopher sat back down next to Chara, clasped her hand and resumed sipping his coffee.

The room fell silent. Renee closed her eyes. Nic stared into his empty mug. Stacy shifted uncomfortably on her chair.

With a big sigh, John finally gave voice to what they were all thinking. “You’re right,Christopher. This is convicting! So, …  what do we do with this understanding?”

Christopher and Chara grinned at each other. “As Chara and I see it,” he said, “we are the first generation in history to have a real shot at completing our assignment. I’ve read that non-Christians outnumbered those first century believers 360 to one. Today there are only about seven non-Christians for every Christian. In Romans 15:23, Paul said there was ‘no place left’ for him to work in Asia. There was still more to do of course, but his disciples could finish what he had started. If the Church would begin equipping our members to multiply disciples, the kind of pioneering work Paul did could be completed worldwide in our generation, and there would be ‘no place left’ without multiplying disciples.”

Christopher stood again. “We have to inspire and guide our generation to live with a wartime mentality, in anticipation of Christ’s return.  By His strength it is so doable!

“We must pray for and equip laborers like those Marines we met on the flight to London. May God help us raise up a generation of spiritual commandos; missionary shock troops preparing for Jesus’ return by establishing vibrant, multiplying movements in every remaining unreached people group and place.”

“Our first step,” Christopher said, looking each of his friends in the eye, “is for the six of us—and then all of Church in the City—to seriously grapple with the fact that Jesus really could return at any time!” Christopher sat again and waited.

“Right,” John nodded. “Knowing Jesus could come tomorrow really does change my perspective! Do you think …”

“And we have to impart this urgency to others!” Christopher jumped up and started pacing again. “The disciples we make, at home and among unreached people groups, must carry this same expectancy that Jesus could return any moment. And we must demonstrate this in our ministry. Like the Apostle Paul, we can’t settle into babysitting believers, but we must equip every new believer to multiply, and entrust them to the Holy Spirit with the same responsibility for expanding the Kingdom among their own people and beyond, even taking some of them with us as we press on to other unreached people groups!”

Chara smiled up at Christopher. “Would you believe he’s drinking decaf?” Everyone chuckled.

“Wait a second!” Stacy protested. “From what I’ve heard and read in our Perspectives class, unreached people groups are unreached because of language and cultural barriers, and it takes a long-term intentional effort to translate the Bible and start churches among them. If starting churches among UPGs were simple it would have been done long ago.”

“Listen, Stacy,” Chara said. “Christopher’s not suggesting we don’t also need long-term missionaries. Just the opposite. The kind of spiritual shock troops we are proposing go in the power of God’s Spirit to do what Paul did—establish the first contagious communities of believing households in a new unreached people group. But Paul also left others to build up what he had started. Just as in military operations, others are needed to come alongside to serve and assist the resulting movements—including Bible translation where that is necessary.”

Christopher once again took his seat. John rose and approached the makeshift whiteboard that had become a regular feature in these huddles. Christopher winked at Chara. John was in, and he was about to do what he did best.

“History tells us there’s another reason the world may need something fresh like we are discussing. All types of movements tend to calcify over time.” On the white board, John drew a blue line rising and then plateauing.

“For instance, our established organizations began as missions-sending movements. But over time, every movement develops institutionalism. This adds long-term stability while restricting innovation and risk-taking.”

Nic leaned forward and pointed at the whiteboard. “They resist risk-taking because too much is at stake. Happens in business all the time.”

“But it takes a long time for things to calcify, doesn’t it?” Stacy said. “And besides, don’t we need stability?”

“Calcification can take a few years or a few decades,” John said, “but eventually what started as a movement stalls out, and new initiatives are needed to continue forward progress.”

John added a green line above the blue one. “Stability is good, but not at the expense of progress. If we are going to reach the remaining unreached people groups, we need a fresh initiative.”

Christopher looked warmly at his normally skeptical friend. “Yes! To complement what is already going on, we need thousands of new laborers seeking the Holy Spirit’s leading and empowering, and willing to take risks. These believers would act as spiritual commandos, called and equipped for pioneering ventures and ready to sacrifice all for the King’s war effort. They’ll inspire others to pursue similar initiatives. And we must also challenge those who are not called to the front lines to live just as sacrificially, so that resources are freed up for the task.

“Our rallying cry must be Jesus’ own words in Matthew 24:14 that the gospel be proclaimed in all the world—as a testimony to every remaining people group—before His return. We cannot cause Christ’s return, but we can fulfill this condition!”

Christopher stood and joined John at the whiteboard. John nodded, handed him the marker, and gave him a quick wink. Above the lines on the board, Christopher wrote a big green 2025—No Place Left.

“By ‘No Place Left,’ I mean no place or people group where the gospel has yet to be preached. And to escape peacetime complacency we must embrace a target date by which we aim to finish this quest—no matter what it costs us. Our mission objective must be nothing less than no place left!”

The two men returned to their seats, and the room fell silent.

 “I don’t imagine the evil one will take this final pursuit of God’s Kingdom lying down,” Chara said. “He’ll throw everything he’s got at us. And we’ll need thousands of people to go—young, old, and everything in between. We must call people to this, but let’s not forget,” she looked at the group intently, “many of us will suffer persecution—and some of us may die.”

Christopher nodded solemnly. “Let’s remember the generation in Revelation 12:11: ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.’” He looked again at his dear brothers and sisters. “Are we willing to pay the price?” 

Everyone nodded soberly.

The six joined hands and prayed for strength to match their resolve. Christopher’s heart swelled with the joy of unity with his close friends in a quest of utmost importance for his King.

 * * *

Before heading to bed, Christopher tweeted:

#NoPlaceLeft2025 is impossible without a wartime mindset.  Will you mobilize with us for the final effort? A Kingdom Preparation Force!


This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

“Finishing The Task” or FTT

“Finishing The Task” or FTT

Branding experts today don’t like them, but every industry has its “inside” list of initials. One of those for those of us who are passionate about seeing people groups reached, is “Finishing The Task” or FTT.

This was more popular in the 1990s and before. For some, it is still used as a call to the church to reach beyond its “walls” to a world in need of the truth of the gospel. I understand the vision and passion behind the idea.

But, to many in the world, it doesn’t communicate what is intended. The intention is to “rally the troops” (a phrase that has its own issues). But to someone who sees western imperialism or remembers the negative sides of colonialism, it sounds like we are going back to the Raj in India in the 1940s—for example.

In the late 1990s, Ralph Winter stopped using that kind of language. I don’t know, but I would guess that he heard how this was perceived from brothers and sisters from around the world. I’m sure there were other things he was thinking about—he always was considering and reconsidering the way he thought about issues and wondering if there was a better way to talk about or illustrate the “task.”

In part, the word “task” is some of the problem. It makes is sound like you can put together a list of steps and “finish” something…like your to-do list. No matter the vocabulary we use, it is a danger to the mobilization movement to try and “picture” the needs of the unreached. It can turn people into something on a list. While we promote lists of people groups—like—we know the response to that kind of portrayal can range from making us callous to jumping on a plane to help without really preparing.

In some ways, the real danger is that it can make fulfilling our vision to see gospel movements to Jesus sound too simple to pull off. Actually, many of the things we have written about in MF can be wrongly taken that way. That is not our intention. And neither do we want to complicate things and put a burden on new believers by creating a version of “Christianity” that is not helpful or biblically necessary.

Perhaps the biggest danger to mobilization is that we think that we know how things will work before we get on the ground among the people we are seeking to love into the kingdom. That may be caused by the typical western process for getting a job or completing a task. The usual young person is told how to “make it”—which involves getting certain things done, usually in a certain order. Get to the best school you can, which will get you the best job you can. When you get to the school, they tell you which classes to take in what order. Increasingly, in some institutions, you also get to do some actual work in the area to really learn. Hopefully, those internships show you that you might actually like this kind of work.

Of course, you can’t do it the same way for cross-cultural adjustment and language learning. The “complete this list of tasks” approach will be altered by reality along the way. When that happens, people may feel guilty that they aren’t seeing movements within a year or two. This has been the classic problem with workers going out from China. They expect that people will come to Jesus just as easy as they do back home.

Don’t take me wrong. We need to track progress, highlight and visualize needs and mobilize people. We just need to be careful how we talk about it. As we have seen in the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist worlds, they are listening to us. Would we be embarrassed if they hear how we describe sharing Jesus with them as a task to be checked off our list(s)?

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

Micro-Compassion as a Lifestyle

Micro-Compassion as a Lifestyle

Macro-compassion projects from the West tend to swallow up micro-compassion lifestyles for the rest. Compassion in the hands of the few on behalf of the many is extremely limiting. How can we help to reverse this syndrome and make compassion every Christ follower’s natural rhythm of life in their micro-spaces, thus becoming a global movement?

“Here come the T-shirts,” states a man with a mocking tone. He lives with his wife and children in the heart of a major US city. The people he refers to as “T-shirts” are groups of well-meaning church people from the suburbs—often one group after another—who come to his neighborhood to do something “to them” or “for them,” mostly in the form of handouts and free services such as kids’ carnivals, haircuts and giveaways.

Dave and Janice leave their own neighborhood every first Saturday of the month at 8:30 a.m., wearing matching blue T-shirts with their church logo. They drive by their neighbors who include the lonely, hungry, widowed, orphaned, depressed, jobless, forgotten and spiritually dead, to participate in an outreach program to serve vulnerable people in neighborhoods where they do not live. They have little to no experience with the people they will meet and serve.   

Dave and Janice’s ability to serve, and their team’s compassionate nature and activities, are dependent on  their church’s ability to recruit, organize and create weekend activities. From time to time this is done in partnership with professional nonprofit organizations. At times they hold activities for the masses without ever meeting those they are serving. At other times, they hold events or do projects in ways that do not lend themselves to sustaining and developing relationships due to cultural barriers and travel distance. On occasion, they invite people to their church for an annual benevolent event or ongoing project with the hopes that those people might attend their church.

I refer to this kind of benevolence as macro-compassion. Macro-compassion takes place at a macro-level with macro-forms. By way of illustration, clergy, pastoral leaders, or professionals conceptualize and organize acts of service, love, and justice in formats that require lots of organizational skills, financial capital, and social technology. Then they proceed to rally their church members around these efforts that are rooted in a mindset that says “come to us” or “go to them and leave.”

As North Americans, we become accustomed to and dependent on professionals and organized programs to guide our displays of justice, love, and service. And the recipients of our macro, project-oriented displays of service often feel like they are the “project.”

Because our experience is limited to clergy and professionals driving and organizing our acts of love and justice in fairly organized ways, such as church-based food shelters and inner-city carnivals, we struggle to practice incarnational acts of love and justice as a lifestyle within our own social spaces in ways that are reproducible for the average person—in micro, not macro, ways.

Our North American macro-experiences lead to a closed imagination—the inability to conceive and facilitate love, compassion, and justice from a lens other than our own church experiences and worldview. When we head over to other countries — places with vast economic, political, social, and worldview complexities — we launch and model macro-style compassion and justice. For example, we are moved by a plight, and we instantly start thinking in project terms and macro-models. What kind of organization can we start to address this need? What is our mission statement, and who can we mobilize in-country to execute the mission? How will we get financial backing to make this happen for years to come? Before we know it, we are well on our way to top-down, macro-compassion— all adding up to a model that is heavily dependent on foreign aid, heroes from the outside, and salaried cultural insiders who are typically paid with foreign funding.

If we want to unlock a volunteer movement of tangible love and justice in cities, towns, and villages in other parts of the world, I believe two significant shifts need to happen. First, we need fresh incarnational experiences and approaches to compassion and justice in our own Jerusalem (our own communities). Second, as an outflow of those new approaches, we will be better equipped to imagine and facilitate compassion in a way that is doable and reproducible when we go to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.

Call me naïve, but if every Jesus-following family, along with their Jesus-following neighbors, were taught to team up and love their neighbors in the spaces where they work and live as a natural rhythm of life, we would experience an organic movement that cares for the majority of the lonely, jobless, widowed, orphaned, and spiritually anemic.

I love the word image J.R. Woodward and Dan White Jr. give us in this regard:

In The Message John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” God came close in Jesus, who moved into a neighborhood for thirty years. This is profound. How might we move deep into our neighborhoods? Disciples must see the neighborhood as a garden to toil, and this of course takes toil. God is not bound up in buildings; he is already moving along our streets. How do we call the church to care for the spaces we make home? How do we ignite disciples to move toward their actual neighbors? Make no mistake this is a big shift. But it is essential.1

I often wonder why Jesus said to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) I cannot shed light on this from the Greek or through a sophisticated theological point of view, but allow me to explore this with my simple mind. Maybe Jesus broke love and compassion down into manageable increments for a reason. Loving my neighbor seems much more doable than loving the masses who live far from me in proximity, countries or even three cities away. Jesus goes on to say, “love . . . as yourself.” Loving people to the degree that I love myself is reachable and reproducible as well. I feed myself, I clothe myself, I affirm myself, I console myself, I teach myself, and so forth. If I stretch just a little, I could do that for other people. If I team up with others in my social spaces, we could stretch our acts of love and justice even further. If we build in reciprocity—the helped becoming the helpers—we could do even more. And if we develop a burden for a particular community, we could re-neighbor ourselves and become a “love your neighbor as yourself” person within that community.

Continuing with J.R. Woodward and Dan White Jr., we can practice missional-incarnational lifestyles and rhythms by moving from “being for the neighborhood and with the neighborhood to being of the neighborhood and in the neighborhood.”2

It is my belief and experience that loving our actual neighbors is a lost art in the church. We need our leaders to teach us and disciple us in how to see our neighborhood as our garden and how to till it, rather than becoming dependent and even paralyzed by macro-compassion. Then maybe we can send people with micro-experience to the ends of the earth—people who can in turn motivate others to conceptualize their villages and neighborhoods as gardens to till, based on their local initiative, local creativity, local connectivity, local resources and local interdependence..

Being of the neighborhood and in the neighborhood is very different from sweeping in as heroes in crosscultural neighborhoods across the sea with top-down macro-approaches. Just think: we could serve as voices of invitation—rather than as pocket books and bosses— inviting people to use their imaginations as to how to obey Jesus’s command as part of their rule and rhythm of life. A Cambodian family may not be able to build an orphanage, but they might be able to provide an orphan with lunch on a daily basis. And if they team up with a couple other families and combine their local resources and skills, they might be able to meet an orphan’s basic needs. And if every Christ-following family were to lean into an incarnational approach to life, they might be able to serve a majority of afflicted people. “In Christ, God is local. His passions and plans for people become concrete when they are localized.”3

  1.  J.R. Woodward and Dan White Jr., The Church As Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities (Downers Grove,  IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016), 191. 

  2. Ibid, 197.

  3. Ibid, 203.

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

Year of the Frontier

Year of the Frontier

May 2019 through May 2020

A time of united, informed prayer for the largest gaps in work among the unreached!

Join prayer networks around the world in prayer for God’s blessing through Jesus to be embraced among each of the 400 largest Frontier People Groups (each over 500,000 in population).

Each day, learn about and pray for one of these groups through the coordinated publication (email and smartphone app) of:

  • Joshua Project’s Unreached of the Day ( unreachedoftheday)
  • Frontier Venture’s Global Prayer Digest ( Invite others to join you in:
  • Praying through the Pray for the 31-Prayer Guide ( • Promoting the International Day of Prayer for the Unreached
  • Participating in the global Year of the Frontier Prayer Movement  (Go31. org/yof)

Partnering in prayer with field teams through Inherit the Nations (

  • Preparing for the Global Outreach Day 2020 (GlobalOutreachDay. com/2020)
  • Jointly sponsored by:   Joshua Project | the Global Prayer Digest | The Alliance for the Unreached

Learn more at


The Great Injustice

Frontier People Groups (FPGs) are those Unreached People Groups (UPGs) where:
   (0.1%)1 in 1,000 identify with Jesus.
There is not yet a sustained Jesus movement.
Without laborers from the outside, they have no chance of hearing about and following Jesus before they die.

These 400 largest Frontier People Groups contain:

1 in 3 of all who don’t identify with Jesus.

1 in 5 of all people alive today (more than all of Africa)

9 of 10 of all living Frontier People Groups.

Of every 100 long-termmissionaries globally:
• 96 go to the 60% of world population in people groups already impacted by the gospel.
• 3 go to the 15% of world population in UPGs with some gospel impact.
• 1 goes to the 25% of world population in Frontier People Groups

Your prayers are vital to ending this Great Injustice—pray for an end to this Imbalance!



This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

Let’s Finish the Race to Foster Movements in All Peoples!

Let’s Finish the Race to Foster Movements in All Peoples!

On very rare occasions we take the time in MF to honor a remarkable individual who has made a significant contribution to our understanding and pursuit of the ultimate goal of world evangelization—to provide access to the gospel to every person and to make disciples within all peoples so that God would receive the glory He deserves. (Rev. 5:9; 7:9) Dr. Steve Smith is just such a person. Through his books, Kingdom Kernels columns in MF and leadership of the marvelous 24:14 Coalition, Steve pointed the way forward to achieving the goal of movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025, thereby beginning the process of providing access to the gospel to every person.

Looking to the book of Acts for strategic inspiration, Steve took note of the movements to Christ that were occurring in abundance in the apostle Paul’s day, and asked, “Why not in our day?” Indeed, why not?  Through Steve’s work and that of countless others, Kingdom Movements are now taking place all over the world, where disciples are making disciples and churches are planting churches faster than the growth in population.

Pioneering a “New Reality” in Missions

Steve was a pioneer in revealing to the rest of us this new reality in missions—it is possible to reach all peoples through movements; these movements are real and God is using them to transform the lives of millions around the world.  Through his example of actually fostering a movement, he demonstrated that working with the Holy Spirit to foster movements is possible and no fluke. Through his writings, Steve helped to transform our understanding of how to successfully carry out God’s mission in this world through Spirit empowered movements.

The stark truth is that many mission practices, well intentioned as they are, simply do not lead to the development of movements, while the methods of mission Steve and others have highlighted, do.  L.D. Waterman presents this simple choice in his article, Daring to Succeed, starting on page 24. We now know what works in fostering movements. It would seem to be a smart choice to choose those methods of mission that God is using and blessing to create movements versus those methods that cannot even keep up with population growth.  But change is difficult for people, even when it is a smart choice.

A Passion for Urgency

Steve’s great desire was to see Matthew 24:14 fulfilled in our generation. He wrote, “One generation will rise up to be the final generation that experiences these things and welcomes the Lord. Will we aspire to that? Will we steel ourselves for what is required to get to no place left, and to perhaps welcome our Lord’s return? Will we win for the Lamb the just reward of His suffering—a Bride from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation? We have the resources, but do we have the resolve? May we be found worthy!”  Indeed.

You can see this same passion for sacrificial urgency in our lead article, starting on page 8, which includes an adapted excerpt from Steve’s book, Hastening, the first book in his two part No Place Left saga. Then in the following article, “The War That Finally Ends,” by Steve Smith and Stan Parks, we get practical about what you can do to help reach the 24:14 Coalition goal of movement engagements in every people and place by 2025. Please take note of the practical ways that you can be involved listed towards the end of that article.

It seems such a tragic loss to God’s kingdom mission for Steve to have been taken at such a young age. But God and His mission in this world are bigger than just one person. Partly due to Steve and his mobilization efforts, there are many who have caught the vision of movements in every people and place and will now run with it. Steve faithfully ran the race God set before him. Steve’s part in the race is over. He has passed the baton to us and it is now up to us to finish the race to foster movements in all peoples.

Kingdom Movements: 950 and Growing!

Notice the wonderful jump in the number of Kingdom Movements displayed on our cover. This number has gone from 708 to 950, a leap of 242 or 34%, just since our last issue. In less than two years the number of recorded Kingdom Movements has nearly doubled. There are currently over 3,000 movement engagements taking place around the world. The overall number of Kingdom Movements is rising and is likely to continue rising as a growing number of these movement engagements are passing the threshold of what it means to be considered a movement. See my editorial in the May-June 2019 issue for more on what is considered a movement and how this number is derived.

Do you sense it? Do you feel the momentum building as God is working sovereignly through these Kingdom Movements to bring millions of new believers into relationship with King Jesus? Just since January 2018, the number of people involved in these movements has grown from 49 million to 73.4 million. That is nearly a 50% increase in less than a year and a half. At this current rate the number of believers involved in these movements will double in less than every two years. What we are witnessing in our day through these book-of-Acts like movements is an exponential growth of the gospel. What seemed impossible in decades past—providing access to the gospel to every person within every people in our lifetime—is now an achievable reality because of these Kingdom Movements.

Can We Hasten the Return of Jesus?

Implicit in the title of Steve’s book, Hastening, and the name of the 24:14 Coalition is the idea that what we do in relation to world evangelization can hasten the day when Jesus will return. God’s covenant with Abraham was that “through you (Abraham) all the families on earth will be blessed.” Gen. 12:3. We see the fulfillment of this promise in Rev. 5:9 and 7:9 with every tribe, tongue, people and nation worshipping Jesus. God’s concern has always been that all the peoples on earth would receive the blessing of a new relationship with God through Jesus. Matt. 24:14 says that Jesus’ return would be after all peoples have heard the gospel. So reaching all peoples is a condition of Jesus’ return.  Therefore, the sooner we reach all peoples, the sooner Jesus will return, i.e. we can hasten His return. But Steve himself believed that Jesus could come at any time, and so do I, even though from my human perspective I know there are still 7,000 unreached peoples left to reach. God alone knows when the promise to Abraham has been fulfilled and the conditions mentioned in Matt. 24:14 have been met. God has perfect knowledge of these things and we do not.

Even when the conditions of Matt. 24:14 have been met, there is nothing in the passage to indicate a precise time period between the condition being met and when Jesus will return.    Our job has always been to go and make disciples of all peoples. One thing that we can hasten is the completion of the goal of fostering movements in all peoples. We should certainly hasten to do so out of obedience to what Jesus has asked us to do, for the sake of lost souls and for the glory of God.

In Pursuit of a New Type Church

The first issue of Mission Frontiers I ever worked on was the June-October 1990 edition featuring “The Passing of a Giant,” noting the passing of Dr. Donald McGavran at the age of 90. McGavran’s work on understanding people movements and the dangers of extraction evangelism are vital to our understanding of how to do missions in our day. McGavran recognized that a change in our mission methods was essential. He pointed out in 1982 that “the common Western approach to ‘planting a church’ inhibits movements rather than encourages them.” 

While McGavran likely envisioned “visible” churches in dedicated buildings, what we are seeing in these Kingdom Movements is a return to first-century, book-of-Acts like, family-based churches in homes. As you read through the book of Acts, you will notice that believers gathered together in homes as families which often included extended family members and servants, but no dedicated church buildings. The modern Kingdom Movements reflect this pattern as the gospel multiplies through disciples making disciples and home based churches multiplying as the gospel spreads from family to family. This is increasingly how the unreached peoples are being reached. 

Taking a Break

For the next issue of Mission Frontiers, Sept./Oct. 2019, Rebecca Lewis, the daughter of our founder, Dr. Ralph Winter, will be taking over for me as a guest editor. She will be providing the editorial for that issue. I will be taking a short, one-issue sabbatical for some much needed rest and reflection. I will be back in the editor’s chair for the Nov.-/Dec. 2019 issue. Have a great summer and I will see you back here in the fall.

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

Completing the Task

24:14—Partnering With King Jesus: The One Thing We Can Do to Hasten His Return

Completing the Task

When I was 15 years old my grandfather introduced me to an elderly missionary mobilizer. And in the course of the conversation he asked me Oswald Smith’s powerful question: “Why should anyone hear the gospel twice, before everyone has heard it once?”  Clever use of language, but not something to change your life—right? It changed mine.

I don’t remember a lot of details from that conversation 58 years ago. But I now understand that it pointed to the powerful truth that Jesus is depending on his Church to achieve a goal that prioritizes people who have never had a kingdom of God presence in their culture. He won’t return until we partner with Him and are successful at some level that only He knows.

There are hundreds of prophetic passages in the Bible. And Jesus certainly made many prophetic comments. But Matthew 24 is the only time that He gave a list of specific answers to the apostles’ question: When will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:2)

In the next eleven verses he gave eight signs to expect. The last one in verse 14 is quite different from all the others.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations (ta ethne), and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14)

At some point the people of God globally will take seriously Jesus’ mandate to pray and act for the glory of God… the will of God… and the Kingdom of God to be established on earth as they are in heaven. (Matt. 6:9,10)   This is a prophetic mandate to strategically and comprehensibly make disciples where the gospel has never gone, or never thrived, until Jesus’ return confirms that the task is done! Revelation 5:9–10 reveals that the reward of Jesus’ sacrifice will be finally fulfilled in eternity.

Then they sang a new song:
You are worthy to receive the scroll, to break its seals, Because You were slain.
With Your blood, You redeemed for God people from every tribe and language, people from every race and nation.
You have made them a kingdom: You have appointed them priests to serve our God and they will rule upon the earth. Rev. 5:9-10 (The Voice)

The 24:14 Coalition invites every church, ministry, and Christ Follower to take Jesus’ repeated mandate for comprehensive and worldwide disciple-making seriously now! 
The only time Jesus is described as being extremely joyful is in the Luke 10 account of the return of the 72 disciples who were giddy with the reality that demons fled when they spoke in his authority and name.  Jesus even told them that kings and prophets dreamed of experiencing this kind of service in God’s name. This is the day of ordinary people achieving the impossible by the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit.

And suddenly we find ourselves in amazed wonder at almost 25 years of cascading Kingdom Movements. Today more than 950 Kingdom Movements, populated by ordinary people and propelled by the Holy Spirit, are taking the gospel into former strongholds of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Animist, and Chinese religions. And for many of those 950 they had never before had a “Jesus option.” Let’s join God where, and how, He is working today.  

Let’s participate in the 24:14 Coalition to make disciples and plant multiplying churches where the gospel has yet to go!

The passing of Steve Smith

Steve Smith was a pioneer of Kingdom Movements, and he helped all of us understand better the relationship between Jesus’ kingdom values and the many hundreds of movements that have been birthed in the last 25 years. Steve was also an exhorter of the church to fast and pray.

Multiple Finish Lines   by Curtis Sergeant

Before his death he was able to complete a wonderful book, Spirit Walk that I believe people will still be reading many years from now.  His contributions to Mission Frontiers’ Kingdom Kernels, T4T, 24:14, and other initiatives have already borne wonderful fruit and will inspire other courageous Kingdom ventures.  

The call to complete the missionary task is multifaceted. 

We will not know we have completed it until we see the Lord return in glory.  In the meantime, we need to realize some aspects have been accomplished more fully than others.

One aspect of the Great Commission is nearing completion.  That is the task of making disciples of every ethnolinguistic people group.  In the past twenty years in particular, great progress has been made in this regard.  In the next few years we will have begun work among every people group on earth.

A second aspect is geographic.  We need to be making disciples among every people group in each location where that group lives. I could point to many parts of the world where disciples are not yet being made among all the people groups in that place. When we combine geography and ethnolinguistics in this way, we see that significant progress is still needed.

A third aspect is related to the quality of disciples being made.  There are many ways to view this challenge.  How fully are the disciples conformed to the image of Christ? How fully are they obeying all that Christ commanded? How engaged are they in making other disciples?  How completely do they love God and others?  How intimately do they know and follow the Lord?  Our disciple-making activity must be carried out with excellence and depth among every people group in every place.

A fourth aspect concerns addressing the various arenas of societal leverage at the macro level and the various networks of relationship at the micro level.  This aspect often relates closely to the strategy (macro) and tactics (micro) by which various individuals and organizations pursue the missionary task.  This work is intertwined with the first three aspects and is where most of us “live” in our pursuit of building the kingdom.

I believe the third aspect is the most critical one in terms of influencing progress in the other areas.  If the disciples being made are of extremely high quality, then they will be more motivated, more passionate, more fruitful, and more committed to making sure the other finish lines are crossed quickly and thoroughly.  They will become co-laborers in the task.

In the past thirty years, many people have become convinced that disciple-making approaches that utilize “movement” principles are the most effective in making high-quality disciples and thereby achieving the greatest progress toward these various finish lines.  Additionally, the application of these principles will hasten the pace of progress once work gains traction in a particular place or with a certain people group.  With the continuing rapid pace of world population growth, we must intensify our efforts to keep up.  Each generation has to be re-evangelized, and the slower the reproduction rate of disciples, the more challenging it becomes to complete the task.

I thus consider it essential that “movement” principles be instituted in our disciple-making activities all over the world. You can familiarize yourself with “movement” principles and their application by completing a free, ten-session small group study available at


This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Spanish version of The Remaining Peoples with No Chance to Hear About Jesus

Spanish version of The Remaining Peoples with No Chance to Hear About Jesus

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Introducing Frontier Ventures’ New General Director, Dr. Kevin Higgins

Introducing Frontier Ventures’ New General Director, Dr. Kevin Higgins

Editor’s Note: The first General Director of Frontier Ventures, formerly the U.S. Center for World Mission, was our founder, Dr. Ralph Winter. Winter appointed Dave Datema to be the new General Director shortly before Winter’s passing in 2009. The Office of General Director, with three co-leaders, was created in 2012. With the appointment of Dr. Kevin Higgins, Frontier Ventures returns to having just one General Director.

I have been a friend of Frontier Ventures, then US Center for World Mission, and WCIU since 1980 when the youth group I was leading helped send out mailings about what was happening here. When Susan and I went to Uganda in 1984 to work with Somalis our pre-field preparation was done at the Center and we stayed in Townsend Hall.

Over the years, as we worked in South Asia among Muslims, I visited Frontier Ventures from time to time, and by the late 90s was occasionally brought in to speak at morning meetings (two of the movements in South Asia were written up in the book Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison). I have written for, and been blessed by, IJFM and also the various editions of the Perspectives Reader.

When WCIU began to develop an area of focus around translation, I was among those who helped give input and encouragement.  I also recruited students; I received my PhD from Fuller in 2012 focusing on comparing the translation approaches of Christians and Muslims in Urdu. I have mentored several MA students as well.

While remaining engaged with the movements in South Asia, I also led another organization, Global Teams, over the past 18 years before coming here. But my connections to FV and WCIU have run long and deep.

Then, after several years of knowing a change was coming for us, we began the process that led to my move here physically in August 2017. At that time I took on the role of WCIU President and became a member of the “Office of the General Director” (OGD) for Frontier Ventures with Fran Patt and Chong Kim.”

In the past few months, the OGD and both boards discerned and then unanimously affirmed the Lord’s leading to ask me to serve as FV’s General Director (while remaining WCIU President).

There is no space here to go into all that I think our future holds. But, given the focus of this edition of Mission Frontiers, let me mention one.

There has been a recent sharpened focus within the broader Unreached Peoples effort. That sharper focus has been around Frontier People Groups (FPGs): those with less than .1% believers of any sort and no known movement. 

Of the 31 largest (over 10 million people), 24 are in South Asia and 18 in India alone. Of those 24, just a cursory survey showed me that FV and WCIU members have organic relationships with the “field” in eight, including five in India. 

So, announcing all of this within an edition of Mission Frontiers focused on India seems fitting. 

I have encouraged us within FV and WCIU to believe God for movements to Jesus within four of the 31 largest FPGs as one of our primary objectives by July 2020.

How is that possible? The answer connects to another frequent theme within Mission Frontiers: movements. 

In physical and/or cultural proximity to many of the largest FPGs there are already movements to Jesus which are mature and thriving. In several cases, there are already leaders from those movements who have begun to look at the FPGs around them and are praying and planning for ways to reach them. 

Over the next months, FV and WCIU will combine to catalyze collaboration (especially collaboration with local, indigenous movement leaders) focused on innovation of new approaches, mobilization at a more local level and training as needed to see breakthroughs happen. 

This is a wonderful example of how God uses FV: identifying and overcoming barriers so that we might see kingdom breakthroughs.

There are a lot of challenges ahead of us and a lot is changing in FV and WCIU, but I also see a new era of collaboration, innovation, mobilization and training ahead of us as well.



This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Key insights in enabling movements among the Hindu and Muslim peoples

Key insights in enabling movements among the Hindu and Muslim peoples

Today, we live in a very exciting time when millions of people from the Hindu and Muslim peoples are coming to faith. Isaiah talked about a new thing in Isa. 43:18-19 when he said:

“forget the former things: do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness (new pathways in the Scriptures) And rivers in the desert”

The Holy Spirit (rivers of living water, John 7:37-39) is revealing new insights for reaching the non-Christian mainstreams in the spiritual deserts of the world.

From our experience, there are at least seven key insights that we have found helpful in reaching Hindu and Muslim peoples with the Good News of the Kingdom. They are:

1. Rediscovering the gospel

The gospel is not a religion but a relationship. A relationship with the living God. As the Lord Jesus Christ comes into our lives, we become the expression of the gospel. 2 Cor. 3:2-3 (The Message) tells us, “your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it, not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit.”

As people journey in the Scriptures and continually observe our lives, they start to understand who this Jesus is and that He came to this earth to reveal the living God. God wants to bless us and change us and remove the mess in our lives. In due course the Holy Spirit helps the person to understand that God is inviting us into a wonderful relationship with Him that will cause us to become like Him and give us eternal life. This is good news to a Hindu or a Muslim who has no awareness that this is even possible.


Most Hindus and Muslims respect a believer who lives like Christ but assume that they have to change their religion rather than understanding that the Good News is discovering how to have a personal relationship with the living God. The apostle Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 2:2, “I decided to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

2. Rediscovering the Kingdom

As we read the four gospels, we are amazed to learn that the kingdom is mentioned more than 100 times. It was His message (Matt. 4:23). It was His life purpose (Luke 4:43). It was His focus from the very start of his ministry (Matt. 4:17,23). It was the theme of the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3,10). It was the center of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:19-20). It was the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:10). It was His command to us to make it first priority in our lives (Matt. 6:33). In the N.T.Wright translation, Matt. 6:33 is put this way,

Instead make your top priority God’s kingdom and his way of life, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

The kingdom is primarily relational and not organizational as we examine the parables. It is invisible, not seen. It is spiritual, not physical and it is eternal, not time bound. It is a mystery.

Yet, it is the framework that Jesus spoke about. It embraces all the religions of the world including Hinduism and Islam. Anybody from any religion can become a citizen of the kingdom. If we use a Christian framework, we are limited to reaching nominal Christians and proselytes.

And when believers live out the kingdom values, they are very attractive to non-believers.

3. Reaffirming our First and Second Birth

Every believer has two births. The first birth is a physical birth that takes place at a certain time and place and is defined by our culture, our religion, the language we speak and our unique personality, physical features, skin color and family history. All this is from God. Acts 17:26 tells us, “God determined the times (history) set for them and the exact  places (geography) where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.”

But the tendency is for missionaries and others to denigrate the first birth and especially that of Hindus and Muslims.

Jesus always respected the person’s first birth and this is beautifully illustrated by the way He related to the Samaritans who were regarded distastefully by the Jews. He went to one of the Samaritan towns and stayed in that place for two days. However, the  Samaritans in that place believed on Him and saw Him as not just a Jewish prophet but as the Savior of the world (John 4:42) in part because He lived and ate with them. No Jew would normally do this.

Paul respected the first birth of the Corinthians and encouraged them to remain in their context (1 Cor. 7:17-24), despite the fact that context involved pagan temples, pagan worship and sexually degrading practices.

Our second birth is from above and is spiritual. The first birth enables the mobility of the gospel. The second birth enables the purity of the gospel.

4. Recognizing that Relationships Define the Church

The family is central to the gospel. Gen. 12:1-3 is the first record of the gospel in the Bible according to Gal. 3:8 and it states that through Abraham “all the families of the earth would be blessed.”

The Greek word for household in the New Testament is oikos and this word occurs at least 114 times and in 1 Tim. 3:15 we read that the household of God is the church of the living God.

Rom. 16:5 tells us, “greet the church in their house” (ESV,KJV,NASB) referring to the relationships in that household. The NIV inserts the word “meets” into the text, implying a meeting, but that word is not in the Greek text.


Even the Greek word “ecclesia,” usually translated as “church,” never refers to a building or a meeting but always refers to the people of God in relationship to each other.

A great example of oikos is Cornelius’ household in Acts 10-11.

We see seven natural networks included in his household:

• His immediate family

  • His relatives
  • His close friends (Acts 10:24)
  • His work colleagues: those who worked with him(soldiers)
  • His work colleagues: those who worked for him(servants)
  • His neighbors(“respected by all the Jewish people” Acts 10:22)
  • Those in need(“always helping people in need” Acts 10:2)

Every person belongs to a natural oikos and as the gospel enters that oikos, it can be transformed into a spiritual oikos and in essence becomes church in that context.


The household is central to evangelism as one family touches another and in turn disciples that family. The Shema (the Hebrew word for “hear” that literally means “hey listen up”) of the Old Testament (Deut. 6:4-9) describes how the Jewish nation were to love their God with all their heart and soul and strength and disciple their families and hence their nation. The 12 Jewish apostles would have understood that as they heard the Great Commission from Jesus to make disciples of the nations, just as they had discipled their own families and hence their own nation.

5. Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit

For the new believer, it is important that they learn to experience His presence, His power and His perfecting working their lives.

Prov. 3:6 (The Message) tells us, “Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”

The new believers learn God’s ways especially through the Scriptures and His presence convicts them of sin and comforts them in difficult circumstances. In John 14:26 we are told by Jesus that “the Holy Spirit will teach you all things.”

And the new believers experience the power of the Holy Spirit in the area of prayer. Rom. 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know how to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” and again in James 5:16, “Tremendous power is made available through a good man’s earnest prayer.”

New believers learn to pray for their families, relatives, work colleagues, friends and neighbors. They begin to see healings and demons driven out through the power of prayer.

Then the new believers start to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and respond to His promptings in areas of life that need to be changed and relationships that need to be sorted out and attitudes that need correction.

As the new believers spend more and more time in His presence, their lives dramatically change and they become a wonderful influence in their communities. This change was evident in the lives of the early disciples “when they (Jewish leaders) saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were ignorant, untrained laymen, they were astonished and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) Matt. 3:11 (The Message) tells us, “…the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house and make a clean sweep of your lives.”

6. Realizing our Freedoms in the Gospel

The new believers experience freedom from the penalty of sin and also the power of sin as they rely on the Holy Spirit. They also experience freedom from systems, both religious and secular. Gal. 4:3 says, “we were in slavery under the basic principles of this world”. And in verse nine, “weak and miserable principles.”

Paul advised the Galatians who were Gentiles and were being pressured to fit into the Jewish system that “it was for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Gal. 5:1)

Today many missionaries and Christians advise new believers from Muslim and Hindu backgrounds to convert to Christianity and as a result they are now under another system. This approach must be resisted.

But when these new believers realize that they are free of their own system, then they can live under that system as the system no longer controls them.

Paul was willing to fit into anybody’s system in order to reach those people with the Good News. 1 Cor. 9:19-23 explains this principle.

In fact, from a kingdom perspective, we view everything from a spiritual framework, not a physical framework, so this gives believers wisdom about being in the mosque or temple and the acts of worship that take place in these buildings. The Jews relied on “temple worship” (Rom. 9:4) but under the new covenant, our worship is spiritual (Rom. 12:1-2) and is a changed lifestyle.

7. Releasing the Gifts

When all the gifts are utilized, there is tremendous growth of the movements. This is especially true of the gifts of apostles, prophets and evangelists. The institutional church is primarily focused on the gift of teaching and also elevates the gift of pastor to a position of authority which often stifles the growth. This practice explains why there is a proliferation of denominations.

Eph. 4:11-12 tells us that these equipping gifts are given to equip all believers to do the work of ministry.

You can go to aspx .and for $10 you will receive a comprehensive personal assessment of your gifting. You will be given details of your equipping gift profile that will help you recognize your role in an apostolic team.   

Your next steps

  • Start where you are and begin praying through all your family and relatives. Also pray for your close friends, work colleagues and neighbors and ask God about what your next steps are with each person. If they show some interest in spiritual things, you could ask them if they would be interested to start a journey of figuring out who Jesus is. I have found that everyone has respect for Jesus, including Hindus and Muslims. They usually respond by asking, “what do you mean?” Then I pull out John’s gospels in an easy to read version like the Message. I read page one and let them read page two and then I ask, “What did you think?” Initially there may not be much response but I do not argue with the person or correct them or explain things. Then I ask, “would you like to meet again next week over coffee and we can look at the next two pages?” This assumes that we are already good friends. Usually people are OK with this and now we have started the journey which will continue through the influence of the Holy Spirit for some time.
  • You can shift to a part of the city where there are many Muslims or Hindus living and join their community. You could join a learner’s class at the local mosque or Hindu temple and learn about their religion and build friendships with the other new members. You could volunteer to teach English for members of the community. You could make yourself available to teach people to drive, to help them with income tax or social security etc. You can be hospitable and slowly build relationships.
  •  You could consider taking a job and moving to India or a Muslim country and work there and be a natural influence in that community. You could be a part of a team that goes together and be a resource to each other.
  •  BEGIN TO PRAY and ask God to guide you in this exciting adventure of bringing the Good News of the Kingdom to the lost nations of the world wherever you are.

Resource books

Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale, Nelson 2012

A Wind in the house of Islam by David Garrison, WIG 2014

Understanding Insider Movements edited by Harley Talman and John Jay Travis, William Carey Library, 2015

The Kingdom Unleashed by Jerry Trousdale and Glen Sunshine, DMM,2018

Your Kingdom Come by John Ridgway, Tallgrass Media, 2018


This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Advancing through Persecution in North India

Advancing through Persecution in North India

From the time of the New Testament up to today, bold witnesses continue to see the gospel advance, even in the face of serious persecution.

Once when Jesus sent His disciples out on mission, he told them, “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16, NLT). The rest of that chapter records a fascinating list of possible results from following Jesus’ pattern for mission. Some who follow His pattern will get hauled before the courts. Some will be betrayed by their own families. Some will be threatened. Others will receive a gracious welcome. And all are so important to God that the very hairs on their heads are numbered.

All these things are still happening today. The movement with which we’re connected has matured through the persecution believers are experiencing. A person may simply put their faith in Christ from listening to Bible stories, but the ensuing persecution that person faces causes their faith to mature. Here are two recent examples.

The Fire Spreads

In one village in Northern India, 26 believers’ homes (huts) were burned this year. High caste people in the village had ordered these low caste believers to stop meeting together as followers of Jesus. But in spite of threats, they kept meeting. Then one night during the hot season while they were sleeping mostly outside of their huts, someone set a fire in one hut. It quickly spread from home to home until all 26 were consumed. The believers went to the police to file a report but the police would not do anything. The high caste Hindus who lived in the high caste part of that village then threatened them even more. Many of those who lost their home left the village to stay with relatives elsewhere. Then, seven days after the fire, the 26 families got back together and decided: “We are not afraid. We will rebuild our homes!” This runs contrary to the usual cultural pattern of low caste people simply acquiescing to the orders of high caste people. As these believers made plans to rebuild, house churches in other areas supported the families with their own funds. Even in their poverty, the house churches generously helped others in the movement.

In addition to the help from believers, many other village people are also helping meet the needs of those who lost their homes. This event has exposed the reality of radical Hinduism. It has caused some people to ask more questions about Jesus, like “Why would they do that to you?” and “Why are you now a Christian and not a Hindu?” When news of this tragedy gets out, Christians in other areas tell what happened. That leads to discussions about who Jesus is. Also, the families currently staying with their Hindu relatives are sharing with them about Jesus. So as a result of the fires, the gospel message is being shared more than before. The dispersion of these people from their burned houses has spread gospel messengers to 17 villages.

A Beautiful Martyr

Ravit was 39 years old. He worked hard as a carpenter to provide for his wife, three daughters and young son. He also farmed their personal small plot of land. Three years ago, he attended one of our trainings where he heard that Jesus’ final command to His followers was to go make disciples. Soon Ravit was putting into practice what he had learned. He worked in the mornings, both in the fields and the shop, and then dedicated his afternoons to ministry. Ravit never asked for money. When other house church leaders inquired to see if he needed “help,” he’d reply, “No, I don’t need it. I have my own business and don’t need more money.” The movement leader describes Ravit as “very wise and bold.” He was also focused on reaching more places, new villages. Every one or two months he would go to a new, unreached place. He was not afraid to talk with people. He was energetic about the gospel and wanted to spread the Word. In the course of three years, he saw 378 house churches birthed and nine generations of leaders mentored. He was not jealous of others’ successes, but freely shared all that he learned in trainings so that others could also be fruitful.

A few months ago, a radical Hindu group became jealous of the impact Ravit was making in his area. A group of them attacked him one day, beating him mercilessly. He became ill from his injuries, but since he wasn’t fully incapacitated, he continued working. His mentor asked him if he wanted to report the attack to the police. Ravit said that his attackers were all local and had strong political ties, so reporting the incident to the police would only make things worse.

Two months later, Ravit was still weak, but mobile. One day, the group returned and beat him again. His chest hurt, but there was work to do so he went to the fields. The pain grew worse and worse so he finally stumbled home to rest. Later that day, Ravit died. The next day, Ravit’s mentor and friend buried him in his own field. Ravit is the first known martyr from this disciple-making movement. The story of the believing community’s response can be seen in the video “The Gospel in Action.” I asked the leader of the movement,“How many other leaders like Ravit are there?”

He answered, “There are about 20 others (men and women) like Ravit in his area alone. Each one has seen between 300-350 house churches birthed.” 
He went on to estimate that 20-30% of the churches across the whole movement have experienced beatings or arrest for being followers of Jesus. The other 70% have experienced some form of persecution such as harassment, social pressure or bullying.

Over the last few weeks, in his hometown alone:
• Three house church leaders were arrested while worshipping in their home.
• A family’s power lines were cut by one neighbor and their water-supply pipe was broken by a different neighbor. The family had no electricity or water for 17 days until a friend of a friend reconnected them.
• A man named Mohan was beaten in his own home one night by his neighbors. They were upset about the Bible studies he’d been hosting in his home. The police have yet to file an official report of the incident.

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he said, “If one part [of Christ’s body] suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:26-27, NLT).

Please pray for the part of Christ’s body in this nation. Pray, as the first disciples prayed when they faced persecution:
“O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—You spoke long ago…saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord…’

And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your  word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus”
—(Acts 4:24b-26, 29-30, NLT).

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

A Problem with Multiplication

A Problem with Multiplication

At its core, the New Testament is clear that multiplication of faith is expected:

  • In Matthew 13:8, in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said, “…others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” He explained in verse 23 that this seed landed on, “…the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (NASB)

That is serious multiplication!

  • In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NASB) That is five generations— if you start with Jesus!

As you get older, you think more about who will carry on your family and ministry. Because of that, I increasingly engage and invest my life in the next generation—both those in ministry and my children and grandchildren (I will show you pictures!). And, as I attend events around the globe, I continue to purposefully invest time with leaders.

It also makes you consider those who invested in your life. Recently, I was thinking about the men and women who have invested in and greatly influenced my life.If I go back to my formative years there were many, but one key person was a teaching pastor named Bill Lawrence.

I met Bill when I was just entering 9th grade. He had recently started a church that our family began attending just after it moved to a rented facility. Bill’s faithful, deep teaching and love for God and His Word captured my heart, changed my life and gave me direction.

Many other men and women helped shape my walk with Christ —I can think of many who are still in fulltime ministry—not to mention hundreds of others who are involved in ministry as faithful moms, dads and singles serving wherever the Lord has led them.

But, let me back up to those who influenced Bill. I don’t know who he would list, but he came to start that church because another church 30 miles away had a vision for church planting. The first pastor of that “mother” church was Ray Stedman. He started there in 1950, just after serving with Harry A. Ironside, famous Bible teacher and commentator. Stedman also worked with J Vernon McGee of the Thru the Bible radio program.2

One of the things Stedman did early in his 40 years of ministry was to start a training program for younger men going into ministry.3 Bill Lawrence was one of the interns, but the first two were Chuck Swindoll (pastor and very popular radio Bible teacher) and Luis Palau4 (a crusade evangelist from Argentina—it is estimated that as of 2007, he had spoken to 25 million people in 70 nations in English and Spanish).

Pretty impressive little internship program! Of course, there are all kinds of people impacted by all those involved that I don’t know— thousands upon thousands by now.

But there is a problem with multiplication.

Faithful multiplication, mainly in one culture, excludes the Unreached People Groups (UPG) of the world. Yes, we are thankful for those who have believed among the Unreached. A growing number have movements as we have reported in MF. But the inherent problem within UPGs is that until believers go cross-culturally to serve, that multiplication process usually doesn’t get started. No national believer is there yet, and often, no nearby culture has a solid church either. That is why we have always talked about the need for initial penetration into an unreached group. That is the unique missionary task of crossing a culture and (usually) language divide. That is what Jesus followers must seek. It is what we pray for. We want to see Gospel/Jesus centered movements multiply within those UPGs without a witness in their culture. So, we pray and work to that end.

And these are the stories I’m helping to tell in podcasts now. The first podcast was posted on February 11, 2019 at: blog. We’d love to hear your story: who influenced you and what are you doing about it?

  1. I am sorry if some of our international readers do not know these people. I encourage you to learn more about them as you are able. I’ve highlighted the names that will help you see some of the generational influence.

  2. 2 Y ou can learn more about Stedman at

  3. 3 It was later called Scribes School.

  4. 4 Pray for him, he has cancer and seems to be doing well, last I heard.

  5. T here are some amazing exceptions, where new believers are crossing cultures early in their faith journey.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

The Only Way to Reach India is Through Movements

The Only Way to Reach India is Through Movements

There are unreached people groups in almost every country on Earth. But no other country in the world has a greater concentration of unreached and Frontier Peoples than the country of India. Half the population of all Frontier Peoples live in India and 90% of all the people of India live in unreached people groups.  No other country in the world has such a diverse and complex society with thousands of different communities all separated by caste, language and religion. Each of these communities will likely need a separate movement of disciple making and church planting— thereby making India the greatest challenge to world evangelization that the global mission force faces today. No matter how you slice the data, the gospel must become good news in every community of India.

If India is the greatest challenge to world evangelization, then it should be receiving an appropriate level of attention and resources to meet this challenge. But it is not. India has 1,000 times as many people living in Frontier People Groups as does the United States. But the USA receives four times as many cross-cultural workers as India. India has by far the greatest need for workers and yet receives far less than what many reached areas receive.  This will have to change if we want any hope of reaching the peoples of India.

No Ordinary Mission Work Will Suffice

Sending tens of thousands of “missionaries” to India to “convert” people from any other religion to join the Christian church is simply not a workable, desirable or biblical plan. Even if the manpower could be sent, it would create such a tremendous societal and political backlash that any workers sent would likely be expelled from the country and greater persecution of the existing believers would result. But more importantly, this method of mission is not what Jesus has asked us to do. Jesus has not asked us to extract people from their family and community in order to join a foreign community with all the upheaval that brings. Our job is to bring the blessings of the gospel to every family and community so that it is welcomed as good news for that family and community. This is the only possible way India can be reached with the gospel. 

In this issue of MF we provide you with multiple examples of this model of ministry successfully bringing tens of thousands of people to faith in Jesus without extracting them from their family and community. On page 16 we interview Victor John, the initiator of one of the largest Church Planting Movements in the world. He started the movement among the Bhojpuri in 1998. It has since brought thousands into the kingdom and has fostered multiple movements in other peoples. This is the type of ministry that can bring the gospel to millions of Indians in thousands of communities with the least amount of disruption to Indian society.

The task of bringing the Good News of the gospel to every community of India is an enormous task, but God has also given the Church enormous resources to accomplish this task. The “technology” of knowing how to work with God to foster movements to Christ has spread across the globe. 

Many movements are currently taking place in India. We just need to take what we know, train up new workers in how to catalyze movements and then deploy them to every community in India. We also need to back them up with the prayers of millions of faithful prayer warriors. Pick up a copy of the “Pray for the 31 Prayer Guide” at www. Reaching India is doable.

That Number On The Cover: What Does it Mean?

Since our May-June 2018 issue of MF, we have posted the number of Known Kingdom Movements on the cover of each issue. Some have wondered where this number comes from and what defines a Kingdom Movement. This number is being compiled and tracked by the 24:14 Coalition research team. The leader of this team is Justin Long, a global movement researcher with the mission agency, Beyond. The 24:14 leadership and research teams have contact with hundreds of mission leaders and movement catalysts from around the world who report progress to the team. Justin regularly says this number is “the floor, not the ceiling.” There are certainly more Kingdom Movements out there, but we only publish the number of movements that are known and attested to by a third party—therefore the title, “Known Kingdom Movements.” So what constitutes a Kingdom Movement? A Kingdom Movement is usually defined as “four or more generations of churches 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 movement. Each of these streams will eventually have multiple streams itself. We refer to these as Kingdom Movements because the focus of these movements is to make disciples who seek to obey all that Jesus has commanded us to do, thereby bringing the fullness of Christ’s kingdom to that area.

The Passing of Dr. Steve Smith, 1962–2019

For the last seven years it has been my great pleasure to work with Dr. Steve Smith to produce his Kingdom Kernels column and other articles in each issue of Mission Frontiers. His last column, “The Problem of Weeds,” appeared in the March-April 2019 edition of MF. His regular column was a joy for me to read each time and an inspiration to relentlessly pursue God’s glory through Kingdom Movements in every people. As co-director of the marvelous 24:14 Coalition, Steve has made an incredible contribution to world evangelization by seeking to foster movements of discipleship and church planting in every people and place by 2025.

Sadly, Steve will not be around to witness the accomplishment of this great goal to which he devoted his life. On March 13, 2019, Steve died from liver cancer.  As Steve reported in his Kingdom Kernels column in the July-August 2018 issue of MF, Steve’s cancer was caused by a parasite that he picked up overseas while successfully fostering a Church Planting Movement. That column was titled, “Death, The Spiritual Triggering Effect.” It is my hope and prayer that Steve’s death will trigger the effect of launching thousands of faithful gospel workers into every unreached people to catalyze tens of thousands of Kingdom Movements. A good and faithful servant of

Christ has fallen in battle. May there be many among us who will honor Steve, his vision and passion for God’s glory in all peoples, by taking up his mantle to spread the vision for which Steve gave his life.

Steve’s passion for God’s glory overflowed into the writing of an end-of-the-age, two-book, No Place Left saga, including the books, Hastening and Rebirth. The story chronicles the final generation of God’s people rising up to complete our commission in preparation for Jesus’ return. Thousands have been inspired to greater obedience through this saga.

Steve also inspired thousands of faithful workers to effective action through his landmark books, T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution and Spirit Walk. I will greatly miss Steve’s clear clarion call in each issue of MF to reach the unreached peoples through Church Planting Movements. Now it is up to us to take up the 24:14 Coalition goal of fostering movements to Christ in every people and place by 2025 and run with it. Are you in?

A Special Offer from Mission Network

In honor of Steve Smith’s life, Mission Network has posted online an anonymous tribute to Steve, a one-minute video of Steve sharing his passion, and an offer for a free copy of Hastening (Book One in the two-book saga) in a variety of formats: PDF, Kindle, ePub, Word, Audio and Print.

If you haven’t yet read the No Place Left saga yourself, or if your life has already been touched by the No Place Left saga, request a free print copy to share, and Invite others to get their free digital or print copy at


What It Took by NPL/2414

Movement (Excerpted)

What would it take for the whole world to hear?

What would it take for every nation to draw near?

What if God’s people would finish the task? What if this generation was truly the last?

Steve’s cry was so clear: Who ought we to be?

To all who would hear,

“Will you run with me?!”

I know a man, who carried the baton, We all know his vision and must carry it on! The pace is set, it’s 2025.

The herald is dead, but His God is ALIVE!

Steve started a movement but not for his glory, The Hastening saga was always God’s story!

Now we’ve watched the wheat fall into the earth, By God’s Holy promise we will see Rebirth!

This promise is true, to all who would die. Lose your life, give it all, and multiply.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Understanding the Remaining Mission Task - VIDEO

Understanding the Remaining Mission Task - VIDEO

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

A Church Planting Movement Advancing Through Barriers

A Church Planting Movement Advancing Through Barriers

In 2012, one of our national partners, Sanjay,* gathered 15 men from various districts. Most were Christian background believers, while a few were Hindu background believers. We began meeting for one-and-a-half to two-day trainings, roughly once per month. As many of them began applying CPM principles, they quickly saw fruit. As of December 2018, 30,000 house churches have been planted and roughly 200,000 new believers baptized. We are consistently reaching fourth generation groups in many places. In a few locations we have reached the twelfth generation. This is not just one  movement, but multiple movements stretched across at least four different geographical regions.

Key Factors in Progress

  1. Listening prayer. We have changed and adjusted many times as we prayed and listened to the Lord. Prayer is our job. It isn’t that we have a job and we have to add prayer to it. Praying is the job. Praying is what we can do. We don’t feel like praying every day. Our prayers today may not feel very inspired but it’s our job to pray. We don’t go to an office at 8:00 am but we get up and we pray. Seeing prayer in that way has helped us to be more faithful in prayer. Listening is an important part of prayer. There have been so many changes along the way and so many questions: What’s next? Shall we work with this person? We’ve hit a roadblock; what Scriptures shall we use for the next training? Is this a good use of our funding? Is it time to release this brother who’s not applying or shall we give him one more chance? Should we continue training in this city or is this a dead end? We have so many questions, and we’ve learned to sit and wait for God’s answer. Usually he gives the expat team and our national partners the same answers, but we don’t know it until our next biweekly meeting.
  2. Miracles. The movement growth is happening primarily through miracles and through relational networks. The movement began through the early leaders taking steps of faith in seeking out Persons of Peace (POP). As part of their seeking out POP, they saw miracles all the time – lots of healing and lots of demonic deliverance. This opens the doors for a Discovery Bible Study, and also the word of the miracle spreads through natural relationships which then opens the door to other households.

Now, for instance, a brother finds an opportunity to pray for a demonized person. That person is delivered and the word spreads to their family – perhaps family through marriage in another village. Those family members want that brother to come and pray for them. Then the original brother, plus the one delivered, go to the next village to pray for the family member, and another miracle happens. Another Discovery Bible Study starts and it spreads some more. This has resulted in the explosive growth we are seeing. Very simple people, uneducated and barely into the kingdom, pray for others and God does miracles by opening new doors.

  1. Evaluation. We as expat catalysts are always evaluating. “How are we doing?” “Is what we’re doing going to get us where we want to go?” We always ask, “If we do this, is it something they can do if we’re not here? Can they replicate it?”

For example, after we had an initial outburst of 70 POP and a lot of people getting saved, Sanjay (the leader of the movement) thought, “Let’s do baptism.” He wanted to have a giant baptismal service and invite all the house churches. A lot of people were excited to do a celebration and for many reasons that seemed like a good idea. But we couldn’t say “yes” because that would then become the model for baptism, a model they could not replicate: too public, too expensive and too many top-level leaders. 

We said, “Let’s keep praying.” In the end, we didn’t do it. Baptisms stayed simple, stayed in their area, and the pattern can easily continue to reproduce. The question that always fuels our evaluation is, “Can they do it without us? Can they do it if we’re gone tomorrow?”

  1. Caution about using funds. The local Christian culture’s approach is to get money from the West to help themselves in any way possible. We have hesitated to invest money in anything. Some of the workers are faithful and have lots of disciples, but can’t pay for the phone bills to stay in touch with them, so we sometimes help with that once we see they are faithful. The problem with the phones is that if someone here lives 20 miles away, it might be a three-hour trip. They can’t easily go and visit, so the phone becomes necessary. Yet, we’ve still been very cautious about using money. Our partner Sanjay also agrees on caution with funds. He refused to pay his own brother for a long time. He told him, “You need to figure out how to pay for your own phone and gasoline.” No one would see nepotism at work there. It’s not us trying to convince Sanjay about finances; he holds it as a personal value.
  2. Adapting our material. We receive a large number of materials from sources within our organization, but we’ve adapted almost everything and we’ve been selective about what to use. We have a lot of friends in a sister agency who share materials, but as with all materials, if we try it and it doesn’t quite fit, we adjust it. Over time we have our own material. It’s not a formula at all.
  3. Centered in Scripture. Every training has a strong scriptural basis. That’s the center and the focus of the work. Our trainees need to know they can do this because they have the Word and the Holy Spirit, not because we provide them with good teaching. They learn to depend on the Word. We train them using many lists of Scriptures, making observations, asking questions and digging deeper. There is minimal preaching and almost no “teaching” of theology.
  4. Continual vision casting. This helps all the levels of leadership know this work belongs to them, not to foreigners. We give everyone the expectation and tools so they can pass everything they receive down their discipleship chain.

Key Barriers to Progress

  1. Fear in the leadership. A continuous emotional struggle has been: “Are we doing enough? Are we doing too much?” Listening prayer has been key to overcoming this: getting rid of the fear and listening to the Lord direct us as a team.
  2. Traditional Christians. This continues to be the biggest hurdle. Many workers in our area do ministry and answer to a supervisor simply for a salary. They interrupt baptisms and church meetings and cause trouble asking about theology they don’t even understand. They also question the authority of the movement’s leadership since this work is not institutionally based.

This has brought confusion to the churches, and we’ve lost roughly 10% of the new churches to traditional ministries and missions groups as they give stipends to the local leaders. Praise the Lord these people came to faith, but in traditional ministries they are not empowered to make other disciples and make other churches. They become barren.


  1. Many wives believe in the Great Commission and want to go out and meet their neighbors, but their supposedly Christian husbands forbid them to leave the home. The husbands do not give their wives permission to obey the Great Commission. Some wives say, “You can beat me but I’m going to obey Jesus. We call ourselves Christians and this is what we should do.” For the men to give women permission to obey is a big challenge.
  2. Feedback loop for evaluation and adjustments is slow and difficult. National believers will not talk back or correct people they perceive to be in a position of authority above them. It has taken time to find out what does and does not work, how to make things simpler, etc.
  3. Some people seem to have great potential but then it turns out they’re motivated only by money. We are often surprised by who becomes effective. Some people seem to have great potential for effectiveness but then turn out to be ineffective. Sanjay has shielded us from a lot of that, which we wish he didn’t do so much.
  4. Wife beating is common in some places. It’s just one of many issues we need to tackle in the new churches and pray more about.
  5. So many areas in this culture need transformation. Where do we start when 100% of our time and energy goes into simply feeding the movement? When and how is it best to tackle issues of integrity, social problems and deeper emotional and spiritual issues?

These are some of the dynamics we have observed in this movement that the Lord continues to grow, even in the midst of many challenges.




This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

The Year of the Frontier

The Year of the Frontier

The Year of the Frontier starts on May 1st, 2019, promoted by large prayer networks in conjunction with Joshua Project’s “Unreached of the Day” and Frontier Venture’s GlobalPrayer Digest. Additional Frontier Peoples resources can be found at www. and .

These two publications will provide daily prayer points for each of the 400 largest Frontier People Groups (with populations over 500,000). These groups contain 1.6 billion people—90% of the population of all Frontier People Groups.

 This unprecedented collaboration will focus prayer on the fulfillment of God’s promise to bless all peoples through Jesus movements healing and restoring broken families and communities. 

Your prayers are vital to extending God’s blessing in Jesus to all the remaining Frontier People Groups.

Draw close to God by embracing His passion to bless these Frontier People Groups.

Invite others to join you in: 

• Praying through the Pray for the 31 Prayer Guide (

• Promoting the International Day of Prayer for the Unreached (

• Participating in the global Year of the Frontier Prayer Movement (

• Partnering in prayer with field teams for Jesus movements to multiply God’s blessing (

• Preparing for the Global Outreach Day 2020 (, which will coincide with the culmination of the Year of the Frontier

The Great Injustice:

India has 1,000 times as many people in Frontier People Groups as the USA; but the USA receives four times as many cross-cultural workers as India.
• Only 1 in 10,000 of those living in India’s FPGs identifies with Jesus in any way.
• 1 in 20,000 of those living in India’s FPGs is estimated to follow Jesus.
• 1 in 5,000 of all cross-cultural laborers is estimated to work among India’s FPGs.
For every cross-cultural worker among Frontier People Groups (FPGs) WITHIN India, there are 250,000 people in those FPGs who don’t identify with Jesus.
For every cross-cultural worker among Frontier People Groups (FPGs) OUTSIDE India, there are just 10,000 people in those FPGs who don’t identify with Jesus.
1 in 5 of all people who live on Earth live in India.
Half the population of all Frontier People Groups live in India.
7 of 10 people who live in India live in Frontier People Groups.

Until Jesus’ followers unite in obeying His commission, these masses have no hope of hearing about Jesus before they die.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelism

India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelism

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

The Bhojpuri Movement Transforming Social Dynamics

The Bhojpuri Movement Transforming Social Dynamics

Excerpted from Victor John’s forthcoming book Bhojpuri Breakthroughs (Monument, CO: WIGTake Resources, 2019)

The 1990s saw years of brutal warfare between high caste and low caste people in the state of Bihar. Both groups had guerilla-type armies and over 1,000 people were killed in the violence. Our group brought the good news into this context of enmity, revenge and wholesale human slaughter. Through prayer warfare and proclamation of the good news the caste warfare amazingly subsided.

In 1997, the same year as the bloodbath at Lakshmanpur Bathe, we began work in Bihar, and the Church Planting Movement (CPM) started moving into that area. In less than two years, the good news reached many of the fighters themselves, who were broken and weary of the conflict and bloodshed.

In 1999, two area commanders of these warring groups accepted Christ and became completely transformed. Instead of leading raids and killing sprees, they began leading the way to plant churches. This transformation has continued to the present, as 19 former area commanders of militia groups have now accepted Christ and become church planters. So the Church Planting Movement impacted the caste war and helped bring peace instead of strife. But Bihar’s caste wars only highlighted a much more widespread problem…. [The caste system] is a very dehumanizing system: incredibly degrading to human beings.

 In the neighboring state of Haryana, for example, the caste system is still very strong in cities, towns, and villages. It dominates all of life; caste strongly influences each person’s identity. People still get burned alive and tortured in caste-related incidents. Animals can drink from certain ponds, but Dalits and Shudras are not allowed to use that water. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, “Dalits and indigenous people (known as Scheduled Tribes or adivasis) continue to face discrimination, exclusion, and acts of communal violence. Laws and policies adopted by the Indian government provide a strong basis for protection, but are sometimes not faithfully implemented by local authorities.”2

In light of such social dynamics, why would we want to perpetuate the caste system? We want to see God’s kingdom advance, without focusing on caste. We see in Scripture that God’s kingdom is equally open to all kinds of people. Yet when the culture has such an organized dehumanizing system, Christianity comes as a threat because it talks about equality under God and tries to give rights to people who have no rights. It creates disruption, because it suddenly brings someone who has always been under others’ feet to a position of equality.

Cultural tensions related to caste

In India’s social context as a whole, caste still plays an important role. It underlies social tensions and feeds Hindu fundamentalism. The mindset of many people is now changing, and high caste people often don’t demand special treatment. But when something happens that makes them feel threatened, caste consciousness immediately arises. As I talk with all kinds of people, I get the feeling that the caste system still remains in their mindset. This worldview persists no matter what position they hold, what education they have received, or what place they have in society.

Because of democracy, the high caste have lost much of their power as rulers. The vast majority of the population is from low castes: scheduled castes3  and scheduled tribes. Democratic voting increases power for that majority. Also many Dalits and lower caste people have risen up and gained high positions in government and society. So high caste people feel their social power diminishing.Hindu nationalism has arisen in reaction to this changing dynamic. Fundamentalists propagate Hindu nationalism, so that the Brahmin minority can hold onto power. This reaction includes attacking the most vulnerable, which is where religious persecution comes in. The real issue is not conversion but social reformation, which releases lower caste people from oppression. When lowcaste people know their rights, they no longer suffer quietly at the hands of the high caste. So Hindu fundamentalist groups attack because they know Christians are social reformers. We educate people, and once people are educated they no longer function as slaves to the high caste. The social equation is changing, which terrifies those at the top. Most of the Hindu fundamentalist groups are run by high-caste people afraid of losing their power, and that fear inspires persecution. In some cases they have relatives in the police, so they complain to the police and ask them to do something to stop the Christians. But the real issues behind such persecution are social control and power.

The Bhojpuri movement faces the challenge of caste

The Bhojpuri movement has made a great difference in this caste-driven context. The population of the Bhojpuri area consists of 20 percent high caste people and 80 percent low caste or outcast Dalits and adivasi. The good news has tended to more quickly enter the low caste 80 percent of the population, so the church reflects that social reality. This means we have had to address real issues related to caste. The emerging Christian fellowships face poverty, illiteracy, and leadership challenges because low-caste people haven’t been trained for leadership. They’ve been trained for generations to follow orders, not to take initiative. So we needed to develop a special kind of discipleship and leadership training to empower each person. That’s one vital difference between this Church Planting Movement and a mass movement. In this movement each person is being discipled and mentored.

Another challenge in our contexts is that traditional churches are still very caste-focused. People from traditional churches in Southern India come from caste based churches. They have a very distinct division between the churches, with high-caste churches and low-caste churches that never interact with each other. They have no connection or fellowship with one another as part of their normal pattern of social interaction.

In the Bhojpuri movement, however, we don’t talk about Brahmins and Dalits and all. We talk about lost people. The reality is that unless they hear the good news and receive it, they will remain lost whether they are Brahmin or Dalit.

Focus on language rather than caste: touches all castes

Sometimes people say, “Why don’t you focus on highcaste people?” But our approach among the Bhojpuri is different. If the high caste in our area are only two percent or 10 percent of the population, that same percentage is also reflected in the churches. By contrast with the work in the south of India, our percentages reflect the national population. God is at work in all the castes.

In addition, caste-focused work would be impractical in many cases. In some villages, there might be only one family from a particular caste. You can’t start a worshiping community with only one family, so you need a multicaste fellowship. We focus on reaching persons based upon their language, geography, and economic status, rather than caste, because that helps the good news to take root throughout the region, and spread.

Caste divides groups but language unites people, so we have intentionally chosen not to focus on caste. We have instead focused on language, starting with Bhojpuri then spreading to many other language groups.

Top government officials mostly come from the high caste. Nowadays, though, because of the government’s reservation system (a form of quota-based affirmative action for lower castes), some lower caste people are moving up in status, but they’re often not very efficient. Some people think, “If he’s from a low caste, he probably won’t be able to do things properly.” They continue to believe that caste reflects how people are designed rather than how they’ve been educated or trained.

When people move to the city, caste becomes less of an issue than class. Some of the first people who came to faith through our work in Delhi were construction workers, yet they were Brahmins (the top caste). People only look to their own caste when it comes to something like marriage. Otherwise people don’t take much notice of it. In the cities, they may live next door to people of different castes without a problem.

Among the Bhojpuri, God is now moving among every caste, even with lower caste people reaching upper caste people. Believers from different castes may not socialize a lot with each other, but they have worship meetings together and pray together. We have one low caste woman who leads a worshiping community on the low caste side of the village, then goes to the high caste side of the village and leads another worshiping community there. Although she comes from a low caste and is female (which makes her an unusual leader in any village), God is using her effectively in both the high caste and low caste contexts. 



    War Brewing In Bihar, India’s Poorest, Most Dangerous State.” To mention just two especially noteworthy atrocities: in 1992, the MCC (low-caste fighters) brutally killed 35 members of the Brahmin caste at Bara village in Bihar. The MCC’s armed group brought the 35 men of Bara to the bank of a nearby canal, tied their hands and slit their throats. Revenge came in 1997 when a militia of upper caste landlords, called Ranvir Sena, slaughtered 58 Dalits in Lakshmanpur Bathe village in a well-planned and coordinated attack. About 100 armed Ranvir Sena activists entered Lakshmanpur Bathe at around 11 pm. They broke into huts and shot people in their sleep. The village was virtually decimated in the attack; the youngest victim was less than a year old.

  2. india17605.htm. Accessed 12/14/2016. 

  3. “The Scheduled Castes…and Scheduled Tribes…are various officially designated groups of historically disadvantaged indigenous people in India. The terms are recognized in the Constitution of India….In modern literature, the Scheduled Castes are sometimes referred to as…Dalits.” Wikipedia, accessed 3/13/2017

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Embracing an Audacious God-Sized Dream

Embracing an Audacious God-Sized Dream

You are aiming way too low,” I told a group of students in the DMM training. I’d just read through their goals for the coming months. “Those goals don’t require a move of God.  Nor do they show an expectation of multiplication.” Taking a break, I decided we needed to do something physical to get this concept to move from head to heart. 

Handing out pieces of paper, I asked each trainee to wad them up.  Crunching and crackling filled the room, as each student formed five or six paper balls. Next, I took a piece of chart paper and drew a target of concentric circles.  The students formed a line and took aim, throwing their paper balls at the target I’d placed on the back of a chair.  The further away I pulled the target, the higher they had to throw to hit it.  “If you want to see a movement, you have to aim high, you have to shoot for multiplication.  If you aim only at addition growth, you might hit your target, but you will never see a movement.” Eyes shone with understanding. I sent them back to revise their goals. “Aim at something that requires disciples to multiply this time!” I urged.

Big Hairy Audacious Goals

Jim Collins, in his best-selling business book Built to  Last, popularized the idea of the BHAG (pronounced Bee-hag). He wrote about how successful, fast-growing companies embraced “Big Hairy Audacious Goals.”  Businesses like Boeing used nearly impossible goals to turn their companies around and become greatly successful.  Their targets were clear, far beyond their current status, and required “a relentless sense of urgency” to be achieved.1

Dreaming for a Disciple Making Movement (DMM) is in many ways a BHAG.  God knew how powerful this concept was, way before Jim Collins did.  This kingdom principle was applied to business and worked.  It’s a noteworthy truth.  When we go after something far beyond us, we are motivated to work differently.  We are also much more likely to rely on God, rather than ourselves to achieve it.

In reaching the unreached, we must stop looking at what we can accomplish and open our eyes to the “greater things” God desires to do.  We have to dream bigger. There are simply too many remaining unreached peoples in the world, dying having never heard of Jesus’ love, for us to think only about what we can do, or to rely on past  experiences.  God desires to do much more than we can imagine (Eph. 3:20).

Starting with a vision that requires true, organic multiplication is key to launching a Disciple Making Movement.  Only a sincere, passionate commitment to a God-sized vision will compel you to make the kinds of changes needed. Are you dreaming big enough?

10-Fold Increase

A number of years ago, the Lord spoke to me from the Parable of the Minas (Luke 19).  In that passage, the master speaks to his servants telling them to take their one mina and increase it. They were to put it to work until he returned. 

As I meditated on that passage, the Lord stirred my heart with faith to believe Him for a 10-fold increase in the fruitfulness of the church planting teams I provided leadership for.  I believed God was calling me to ask Him for 100,000 unreached people to come into the kingdom of God in the coming years.  This was a dramatic increase that could only be accomplished by God. It would only happen if we saw radical changes and true multiplication of disciples.  A 10-fold increase was a crazy, audacious goal (BHAG) that came straight from Scripture and was absolutely aligned with God’s intentions.  The dream rising in my heart was far beyond my own capacity or prior experience.

In the months and weeks that followed, I struggled with whether to embrace such a massive vision. What if we failed?  What if I wasn’t up for the task? 

The sense of God’s prompting was strong and continual. In response, I took a step of obedient faith and began to share the vision with others.  The 10-fold increase (what we called Supernatural Increase), became our rally cry from that point onward.  Whether we hit the target or not, we would aim high.  We would work for something that required a miracle of multiplication. (See my devotional book, Faith to Move Mountains, for the full story).

The moment I embraced a vision far beyond myself, I became open to creative new ways of operating.  I began to look seriously at new paradigms.  The size of the vision cleared space in my heart for God to direct me toward key changes that would lead us into multiplicative growth.

Dreaming for a Million

Chris Galanos, in his book From Mega-Church to Multiplication, writes about something similar.  He had heard about Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) happening around the world through David Watson and others. Chris began to dream about what it would be like if God did something similar in America.  In the previous ten years through his mega-church, they had seen more than six thousand people come to the Lord and be baptized. That was very good growth.  He was challenged, though, when he heard about missionaries believing God to reach their entire people group with the gospel.  A dream was birthed in his heart to see a million people in America come to Christ.  As soon as he and his staff adopted that size of a vision, they knew they would have to make serious changes in the way they did things.  The God-sized vision drove them toward a willingness to let go of old ways of operating. It caused them to courageously embrace the difficult changes needed for radical growth.

A bold vision prompts bold changes.  It creates space for the Lord to do a new work.

Trumpets, Jars and 300 Warriors

God is attracted to radical, extraordinary faith and obedience.   He sometimes even sets the stage by making our situation unusually impossible. This compels us to use strategies we never would have tried before.  Such was the case with Gideon in the Old Testament.  Who would have tried to win a battle using the methods he did? 

First, God reduced the size of his team.

“The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men.  I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’” (Judges 7:2 NIV)

Next, the Lord instructed him to use methods of battle so unusual they seemed quite absurd.  He was to use trumpets and jars as his primary weapons of warfare.

God intended to get the glory for this victory.  Gideon was required to trust God for something absolutely impossible.

He was asked to fight differently than he ever had before, with very non-traditional methods.  As commander, he not only needed to step out in faith for something radically different and challenging.  He had to lead others into doing that with him.  Not a lot of people, but key chosen warriors who would fight with him in this very unusual way. Only then would God deliver. 

We know the end of the story. Gideon and his three hundred men obeyed. God won the battle, and the Israelites were freed from Midian’s control. 

When our dream is too realistic and too possible in our own strength, we look to ourselves and our old patterns.  We are not forced into radical faith and obedience.  We are not pushed to “walk on water,” believing for the miraculous. Nor do we easily let go of our old patterns of evangelism and discipleship and embrace change.  It is easy to stay in the comfortable boat.  Even when we know the Master is calling to us to come and walk with Him in new things (Matt. 14:28-29).  We much prefer to stick with old, familiar methods of making disciples and doing church.

The Need of the Lost Compels Us to Dream Big

Lest you misunderstand, having a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is far more than a business principle applied to missions.  That is not what motivates us toward embracing God-sized goals.  No, it is the need of the unreached that absolutely requires this. 

Seeing the number of 707 known movements on the front cover of this magazine is truly exciting. But it’s still a very small beginning, compared to the thousands of Frontier Peoples that wait to hear good news.  What if that 707 were to increase 10-fold?  What if there were 7070 transformational kingdom movements a few years from now?  We’d still have just begun. 

While we celebrate progress, the number that truly matters is how many unreached people remain without a relevant gospel witness.  It is that number that we must trumpet loudly. The 31 largest Frontier People Groups (FPGs) total almost a billion people.2 Some of these groups are so populous they require twenty or thirty new movements to approach the 2% Christian benchmark.3

At this time in history, we must dream bigger than ever before.  As we come around the corner and see the finish line of the Great Commission in sight, it isn’t time to slow down.  It’s time to speed up.  It’s time to believe God for “even more.” 

I ask you again. Are you dreaming big enough? 

If your vision isn’t pushing you toward radical changes in how you live and operate, it is likely too small. If your dream seems possible, you may be aiming too low. Leaning on past experiences and victories and just trying to duplicate them?  Then, it’s not a God-sized dream. 

Revisit your End Vision4 with your team, church or organization. Make sure that vision is compelling you to make significant changes in how you operate.  It should be causing you to innovate, experiment and try things you’ve never done before.  If your dream seems too small, go back to the Father and listen once again.  What does He desire to do in your city, region, area or people group? 

God longs to start many, many more Disciple Making Movements around the world.  He is able to begin one through you. If you have already started a DMM, train, multiply and start more. Let’s dream big. The need of the frontiers demands it.

  1. bhag.html


  3. 3 Most definitions of an Unreached People Group include the 2% benchmark.  To be classified as reached, there must be at least 2% of the population following Jesus.

  4. If you have never crafted an End Vision statement, you can find instructions on how to do that on my website http://www

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Why the Community/ Caste Focus is Needed in Support of Church Planting Movements

Why the Community/ Caste Focus is Needed in Support of Church Planting Movements

The Key: How People Perceive Themselves

Let us start with how people perceive themselves. There is too much of classifying people by who we think they are, rather than who they perceive themselves to be. That is arrogance on our part, not a respect of people as people who are living as members of communities.

Would we consider placing members of distinctively different people together, people who have a history of not getting on, in a church plant in the UK, US or Australia? Then why does so much of mission attempt that in other parts of the world? Lack of knowledge and expediency are poor substitutes for respecting people as people and recognizing the dignity and realities of community.

Language not involved in determining community/caste

Most South Asian people do not define themselves primarily by language groupings, but rather by traditional community groupings. Using language to define a people while the people themselves do not use language for selfdefinition can lead to destroying something sacred about the peoples who lie outside the kingdom.

Language spoken is of course very important, but in South Asia the community a person is born into establishes his self-identity much more than the language(s) he may speak.

People know their own community

In the 2001 census for the Municipality of Kathmandu, about 662,000 of 672,000 total people recorded their community/caste name. Individuals knew their caste or tribe, allowing it to be recorded. Typically, in an Indian city, 99% of those of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe status are able to supply their community/caste/tribe name when asked.

Past mass movements have been according to community / caste

Over 90% of Indian Christians are traceable to mass movements, which occur along community lines, not language lines. A number of these mass movements have been labeled incorrectly by language. The Telugu Movement was actually a movement within the Mala and Madiga communities, almost exclusively. The Bhojpuri Movement has now primarily affected the Chamar community and to a lesser extent the Balmiki community. The Punjabi Movement was of one community, the Chuhra, a low status community. Several others tried to respond (Megh, Sansoi, Sansi, and others) but were repelled by defiling contact with the Chuhra. A significant movement never happened in Maharashtra because the Mahar and Matang communities were placed in common churches. We can go state by state in India, Pakistan, and Nepal and identify movements that began but didn’t advance because more than one community was involved and these communities did not associate.

Costly ministry lessons related to ignoring community/caste

If the language focus is used for church planting/discipleship, we are promoting something that for two centuries in India has been a failure or has reduced significantly the number of people responding, that is, churches based on common language, not common community. The writings of Donald McGavran, Bishop Pickett and others on this topic have largely been ignored.

There were costly lessons learned in the period 1870–1920, and one hundred years ago many agencies were getting it right. But language-based thinking had again solidly permeated missions efforts by the 1930s, and continues today. Language lists were what well-meaning workers saw and worked from, and low caste workers naturally ished to de-emphasize a caste focus. It will require a total re-education for pastors and national workers to again think in community terms.


A Glossary of Terms Relating to People Groups of South Asia

Community: In south Asia, community largely means “caste,” but is more innocent sounding term and preferable to many. A South Asian community is not a voluntary association, but an ethno-linguistic hereditary group with defined boundaries within which one must marry. 

People Group: Synonymous with Community in South Asia and used interchangeably with that term.

Caste, formal: Historian Sumit Guha in Beyond Caste describes caste in this way: “…the bounded, status-ranked ethnic community or ‘caste’ is a social form that frequently appears in multiethnic societies. But in South Asia it became a highly complicated, politicized form of ethnic ranking shaped by the constant exercise of socio-economic power” (pp. 2–3). Caste is thus a reality that extends beyond Hindu peoples. Marriages are largely based on caste association and entrance to a caste is by birth. Caste is undergoing rapid change with globalization impacting Indian life, particularly in the cities.

Scheduled Caste (aka Dalit or Untouchable): Lists (schedules) of the most disadvantaged Indian society were developed in various provinces in 1935 (previously the term “depressed classes” had been used). What groups currently get onto the list is all about political power and intrigue. Christians by definition are not Dalits even when social realities show that they are.

Scheduled Tribe: Historically isolated ethno-linguistic groups who never integrated with broader Indian society. Special privileges are reserved for tribal people but they are often exploited. Many sections of tribes and some whole tribes have become Christian.

Other Backward Classes (OBC): A government of India designation first used in 1990 to identify backward castes (but not “most backward castes,” who are the Scheduled Castes) qualified for government privileges (reservation of seats in educational institutions and for government jobs). Due to power equations, numerous well-to-do groups are now officially counted as OBCs.

Forward Caste: Traditionally the high castes of Hinduism.

Caste, informal: Similar to the formal caste system associated with Hindus, but extending to religious minorities such as Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and others. Also a social stratification scheme, but not necessarily as well defined as that within the Hindu system of castes. A few hundred million individuals are in this informal caste system, depending on where boundaries are drawn.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

The Journey of One Hindu Man that Continued into Another Generation

The Journey of One Hindu Man that Continued into Another Generation

This article is an excerpt from the book Radical Together by David Platt and used by permission of Multnomah Press.

In 1990, a young Hindu man from a Brahmin background travelled by bus for many hours from northern Karnataka to the city of Bangalore in South India. There he met a good Indian friend of mine who helped him in his request to look for a job. His own work in the weaving industry was in jeopardy and being made irrelevant due to the presence of a large multinational company moving into the area to compete with the local industries functioning with individuals who of course could not compete with the mass production of the big factories.

In the course of looking at all the options of finding work, my Indian friend, Shekhar, who is also from a Hindu background, began a discussion about Jesus and asked Suryanarayan about his opinion of what he knew about Jesus. They continued this discussion for about three weeks in between talking to different possible employers. As they dialogued about Jesus from what they had read in the gospels, Suryanarayan became more intrigued about this person Jesus.

Although he had heard about the name of Jesus, He actually knew nothing about the person of Jesus and what He had done. In his place, there were no known believers or Christian presence or churches as it was a strong Hindu community that would not tolerate any Christian presence in their area. But as the conversation continued, Suryanarayan became more and more intrigued and amazed about this person named Jesus. The discussions continued late into the nights and there came a point where Suryanarayan wanted to yield his life to Jesus and follow Him for the rest of his life.

As it turned out, there were no options for work in Bangalore at that time and so Suryanarayan went back to his home town and continued his work. But now he was so excited about Jesus that he immediately shared with his wife and his two young children. He was able to read the Kannada bible to his wife and slowly she was persuaded by what she was reading in the gospels and most of all by the change in Surayanarayan’s attitude towards her. Now he was treating her with respect and taking far more interest in their children. And they began to talk with their relatives who all lived nearby and many discussions ensued. Slowly, several families responded to the Good News. They all continued to go to the local temple— not for worshipping the Hindu gods— but to relate the amazing love of Jesus to their friends. The temple was not just a religious center but the place of importance in the community for all kinds of ceremonies. This included marriages, funerals, the naming of children, New Year celebrations and at least 12 other festivals that were important to the community.

Suryanarayan came back to Bangalore and asked Shekhar to come up to his own town in northern Karnataka and advise him on what to do with all these families who were responding to the Good News. Shekhar went many times over the next several years and listened to the issues that the group was facing. Then Shekhar would pray with them and encourage them to find their own solutions. Often, they would pray through the night when they could not see an obvious solution.

Shekhar would talk with me and we prayed many times that the Holy Spirit would reveal His purposes to these new believers. They were often insisting that we give them a solution as they felt we knew the Scriptures better than they did. Our response was that they knew their circumstances far better than we did and so we had confidence that the Holy Spirit would show them the right pathways for their context.

These new believers were so excited about Jesus that they would spend several nights a week after work visiting relatives and friends and neighbors and explaining the Good News. They also loved to read the Scriptures and treasured the many insights that the Holy Spirit was teaching them. Everybody shared in these discussions which usually consisted of several families in one person’s home.

The families spent much time in Deuteronomy 6:1-9 learning how they could disciple their families with a view for three generations.

Some of the relatives were illiterate despite being able to speak several languages. When they would see how others were gaining such amazing insights then they too would be very motivated to learn to read. The government programs usually took one year but we found that these new believers would often be reading within two to three months. baptize them or force them to deny their Hindu roots or tell them that they needed to build a building and have a qualified pastor. Such efforts were constantly resisted.

Four years ago, Suryanarayan died. By this time his son was married and had two small children and he assumed the leadership of this expanding movement. He has 25 elders that work together as a team. He is as committed as his father and has such maturity at 35 that he surprises everyone. He prays a lot and really serves his people. Even the older friends of Suryanarayan respect Vishnu very much. We are starting to see the second generation taking the good news to the next generation. The group numbers well over 2,000 families and continues to keep expanding today.

As many more families were responding to the Good News, they began to work out the best way to help everyone. They worked out from 1 Tim. 3:12 that the father was the natural leader of his oikos and was called a deacon. The father who had a concern for other families as well as his own was known as an elder ( 1 Tim. 3:1-7).They saw these roles not in terms of positions but as functions to be performed devoid of status or position or money. In fact such a person was truly a servant to others.

Many other issues were resolved over the next years because of a strong confidence in the Scriptures and much prayer, and an unwavering dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Over the next years the number of families kept growing. They did face pressure from several church planting groups who would stumble across so many believers and try to baptize them or force them to deny their Hindu roots or tell them that they needed to build a building and have a qualified pastor. Such efforts were constantly resisted.

Four years ago, Suryanarayan died. By this time his son was married and had two small children and he assumed the leadership of this expanding movement. He has 25elders that work together as a team. He is as committed as his father and has such maturity at 35 that he surprises everyone. He prays a lot and really serves his people. Even the older friends of Suryanarayan respect Vishnu very much. We are starting to see the second generation taking the good news to the next generation. The group numbers well over 2,000 families and continues to keep expanding today.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

24:14 Goal: Mindshifts for Movements

Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (80 months)

24:14 Goal: Mindshifts for Movements

God is doing great things through Church Planting Movements CPMs) around the world in our day. CPM does not mean traditional church planting becoming very fruitful. CPM describes the God-given fruit of a distinctive ministry approach—unique CPM-oriented “DNA.” The perspectives and patterns of a CPM differ in many ways from the patterns of church life and ministry that feel “normal” to many of us.

Note, we want to identify paradigms we have seen God change for many of us involved in CPMs. But before examining these, we want to clarify: we don’t believe that CPM is the only way to do ministry or that anyone not doing CPM has a mistaken paradigm. We greatly honor all those who have gone before; we stand on their shoulders. We also honor others in the Body of Christ who serve faithfully and sacrificially in other types of ministries.

For the Mission Frontiers context, we will mainly examine paradigm differences for Westerners seeking to help catalyze a CPM. Those of us who want to be involved need to notice what shifts have to happen in our own mindsets to create an environment for movements.  Mindshifts enable us to see things differently and creatively.  These perspective changes lead to different behaviors and results.  Here are a few ways the Lord’s great work in CPMs calls us to adjust our thinking.

From: “This is possible; I can see a path to accomplishing my vision.”

To: A God-sized vision, impossible apart from His intervention. Waiting on God for His guidance and power.

One of the main reasons so many CPMs seem to have started in modern times is that people accepted a Godsized vision of focusing on reaching entire people groups. When faced with the task of reaching an unreached group consisting of millions of people it becomes obvious that a worker cannot accomplish anything on their own. The truth that “apart from Me you can do nothing” applies to all our endeavors. However, if we have a smaller goal it’s easier to work as if fruit depends on our efforts rather than on God’s intervention.

From: Aiming to disciple individuals. 

To: Aiming to disciple a nation.

In the Great Commission Jesus tells His disciples to “make disciples of panta ta ethne” (all ethne / every ethnos). The question is: “How do you disciple an entire ethnos?” The only way is through multiplication—of disciples who make disciples, churches that multiply churches and leaders who develop leaders.

From: “It can’t happen here!”

To: Expecting a ripe harvest.

Over the last 25 years people have often said: “Movements can start in those countries, but they can’t start here!” Today people point to the many movements in North India but forget this region was the “graveyard of modern missions” for 200+ years. Some said, “Movements can’t happen in the Middle East because that’s the heartland of Islam!” Yet many movements now thrive in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world. Others said, “It can’t happen in Europe and America and other places with traditional churches!” Yet we now have seen a variety of movements start in those places as well. God loves to overcome our doubts.

From: “What can I do?”

To: “What must be done to see God’s kingdom planted in this group of people (city, nation, language, tribe, etc.)?

A training group was once discussing Acts 19:10—how approximately 15 million people in the Roman province of Asia heard the word of the Lord in two years. Someone said, “That would be impossible for Paul and the original 12 believers in Ephesus—they would have had to share with 20,000 people a day!” That is the point—there is no way they could accomplish that. A daily training in the hall of Tyrannus must have multiplied disciples who multiplied disciples who multiplied disciples throughout the region.

From: “What can my group accomplish?”

To: “Who else can be a part of accomplishing this impossibly great task?”

This is similar to the mindshift above. Instead of focusing on the people and resources in our own church, organization, or denomination, we have realized we need to look at the entire body of Christ globally with all types of Great Commission organizations and churches. We also need to involve people with a variety of giftings and vocations to address the many efforts needed: prayer, mobilization, finances, business, translation, relief, development, arts, etc.

From: I pray.

To: We pray extraordinarily and mobilize others to pray.

We aim to reproduce everything. Obviously personal prayer is crucial, but when faced with the overwhelming task of reaching entire communities, cities and people groups— we need to mobilize the prayer of many others.

From: My ministry is measured by my fruitfulness.

 To: Are we faithfully setting the stage for multiplication (which may or may not happen during our ministry)?

Growth is God’s responsibility. (1 Cor. 3:6-7) Sometimes attempting to catalyze the first multiplying churches can take quite a few years. Field workers are told, “Only God can produce fruitfulness. Your job is to be faithful and obedient while expecting God to work.” We do our best to follow patterns of disciple-making multiplication found in the New Testament, and we trust the Holy Spirit to bring the growth.

From: The outside missionary is a “Paul,” preaching on the front lines among the unreached.

To: The outsider is far more effective as a “Barnabas,” discovering, encouraging and empowering a nearerculture “Paul.”

People sent out as missionaries have often been encouraged to view themselves as the front-line worker, modeled after the Apostle Paul. We now realize that the far outsider can instead have the greatest impact by finding and partnering with cultural insiders or near neighbors who become the “Pauls” for their communities.

Note first that Barnabas was also a leader who “did the work.” (Acts 11:22-26; 13:1-7) So movement catalysts need to first gain experience making disciples in their own culture and then work cross-culturally to find those “Pauls” from the focus culture whom they can encourage and empower.

Second, even these “Pauls” have to adjust their paradigms. 

The outside catalysts of a large movement in India studied Barnabas’ life to better understand their role. They then studied the passages with the initial “Pauls” of this movement. Those leaders in turn realized that contrary to their cultural patterns (that the initial leader is always preeminent), they in turn wanted to become like Barnabas and empower those they discipled, to have an even greater impact.

From: Hoping a new believer or group of new believers will initiate a movement.

To: Asking “What national believers who have been followers for many years might become the catalyst(s) for a CPM?”

This relates to the common idea that we as a culturally distant outsider will find and win a lost person(s) who will become the movement catalyst. While this can occasionally happen, the vast majority of movements are started by cultural insiders or near neighbors who have been believers for several or even many years. Their own mindset shifts and fresh understanding of CPM principles opens up new possibilities for kingdom expansion.

From: We are looking for partners in our ministry.

To: We are looking for brothers and sisters to serve God together.

Sometimes missionaries are taught to look for “national partners.” Without questioning anyone’s motives, some local believers find this phrasing doubtful. Some of the wrong (often subconscious) meanings could include:

  • “Partnership” with an outsider means doing what they want done.
  • In a partnership the person(s) with the most money controls the partnership.
  • This is a “work” type transaction rather than a genuine personal relationship.
  • The use of “national” may feel condescending (as a more polite word for “native”—why are Americans not also called “nationals”?).

In the dangerous and difficult work of starting movements among the lost, inside catalysts are looking for a deep family bond of mutual love. They don’t want work partners but rather movement family who will bear each other’s burdens and sacrifice in any way possible for their brothers and sisters.

From: Focusing on winning individuals.

To: Focusing on groups—to bring the gospel into existing families, groups and communities.

90% of salvations described in the book of Acts describe either large or small groups. Only 10% are individuals who experience salvation by themselves. We see Jesus often reaching households and we also see Jesus focusing on sending out His disciples to look for households. Note examples such as Zacchaeus and his entire household experiencing salvation (Luke 19:9-10), and the Samaritan woman coming to faith along with a great many from her entire town. (John 4:39-42)

Reaching groups has many advantages over reaching and gathering individuals. For example:

  • Instead of transferring “Christian culture” to a single new believer, local culture begins to be redeemed by the group.
  • Persecution isn’t isolated and focused on the individual but is normalized across the group. They can support each other in persecution.
  • Joy is shared as a family or community discovers Christ together.
  • Unbelievers have a visible example of “here’s what it looks like for a group of people like me to follow Christ.”

From: Transferring my church or group’s doctrine, traditional practices, or culture.

To: Helping believers within a culture discover for themselves what the Bible says about vital issues, letting them hear God’s Spirit guide them in how to apply biblical truths in their cultural context.

We can too easily confuse our own preferences and traditions with scriptural mandates. In a cross-cultural situation we especially need to avoid giving our cultural baggage to the new believers. Instead, we trust that since Jesus said: “They will all be taught by God” (John 6:45), and the Holy Spirit will guide the believers “into all truth” (John 16:13), we can trust the process to God. This does not mean we don’t guide and coach new believers. It means that we help them see Scripture as their authority rather than us.

From: Starbucks discipleship: “Let’s meet once each week.”

To: Lifestyle discipleship: My life is intertwined with these people.

One movement catalyst said that his movement trainercoach offered to talk to him whenever he needed…so he ended up calling him in a different city three or four times every day. We need this type of commitment to help those who are passionate and desperate to reach the lost.

From: Lecture—to transfer knowledge.

To: Discipleship—to follow Jesus and obey His Word.

Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey my commands” (John 15:14) and “If you obey Me you will remain in My love.” (John 15:10) Often our churches emphasize knowledge over obedience. The people with the most knowledge are considered the most qualified leaders.

Church Planting Movements emphasize teaching people to obey all that Jesus commanded. (Matt. 28:20) Knowledge is important but the primary foundation must be first loving and obeying God. 

From: Sacred/secular divide; evangelism vs. social action.

To: Word and deed together. Meeting needs as a door-opener and as an expression and fruit of the gospel.

The sacred/secular divide is not part of a biblical worldview. Those in CPMs don’t debate whether to meet physical needs or share the gospel. Because we love Jesus, of course we meet people’s needs (as He did) and as we do that we also share His truth verbally (as He did). In these movements, we see the natural expression of meeting needs leading people to be open to the words or to ask questions that lead to the truth.

From: Special buildings for spiritual activities.

To: Small gatherings of believers in all kinds of places.

Church buildings and paid church leaders hinder the growth of a movement. Rapid spread of the gospel happens through the efforts of nonprofessionals. Even reaching the number of lost people in the USA becomes prohibitively expensive if we attempt to reach them only through church buildings and paid staff. How much more so in other parts of the world that have fewer financial resources and higher percentages of unreached people!

From: Don’t evangelize until you’ve been trained.

To: Share what you’ve experienced or know. It’s normal and natural to share about Jesus.

 How often are new believers asked to sit and listen for the first several years after they come to faith? It often takes many years before they are considered qualified to lead in any way. We have observed that the best people to lead a family or community to saving faith are insiders in that community. And the best time for them to do that is when they have newly come to faith, before they’ve created separation between themselves and that community.

Multiplication involves everyone and ministry happens everywhere. A new/inexperienced insider is more effective than a highly trained mature outsider.

From: Win as many as possible.

To: Focus on the few (or one) to win many.

In Luke 10 Jesus said to find a household that will receive you. If a person of peace is there they will receive you. At that point, do not move around from household to household. We often see this pattern being applied in the New Testament. Whether it’s Cornelius, Zacchaeus, Lydia or the Philippian jailer, this one person then becomes the key catalyst for their family and broader community. One large family of movements in harsh environments actually focuses on the tribal leader or the network leader rather than individual household leaders.

To make disciples of all nations, we don’t just need more good ideas. We don’t just need additional fruitful practices. We need a paradigm shift. The mindshifts presented here reflect various facets of that shift. To the extent we wrestle with and apply any one of them we will likely become more fruitful. But only as we buy the whole package – trade in traditional church DNA for CPM DNA – can we hope to be used by God in catalyzing rapidly reproducing generational movements that far exceed our own resources.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

A Still Thriving Middle-aged Movement:

An Interview with Victor John by Dave Coles

A Still Thriving Middle-aged Movement:

Dave: How long has the Bhojpuri movement been going on?

Victor:  The movement started in 1998. I had begun focusing on work among the Bhojpuri since 1992 and in 1994 we began the ministry in earnest. We held the first Bhojpuri consultation, began a systematic survey for all the Bhojpuri districts and made a decision to focus on obedience-based discipleship. We didn’t start with a blueprint for how the ministry would unfold; everything has been evolving through the years. The real breakthrough with significant numbers happened when we released the first edition of the Bhojpuri New Testament in 1998. After that the movement began growing exponentially. It wasn’t a huge movement at that time. Things were happening in various places, but we had no idea of the big picture of what the Lord was doing.

In 2000 an audit was done by the International Mission Board (IMB), and they pointed out that exponential growth was taking place. The tipping point had been in 1998, when things just shot up. We only had 800 pastors at that time, and all of their ministries had grown within the previous two or three years. The IMB’s audit showed the rapid growth curve and it hasn’t stopped since then. Additional audits have been done by other groups in subsequent years, showing the en- durance and growth of the movement. I just met yesterday with 35 or 40 leaders who shared amazing stories. We were counting the generations of believers and churches and it’s over 100 generations! Every generation of believers starts a new church. We don’t count the number of believers (how many people got saved). We count the number of churches started.

Dave: With all those generations of churches and leaders, how have you managed to maintain the DNA of multiplication?

Victor:  The DNA has been set, and in our culture, a lot depends on watching and imitating. What you see is what you do. You watch what a leader does, then it’s easy to do the same thing. It’s much easier than following written notes or bullet points in a lecture. They see someone do it, then they think, “Oh, I can do that.” We try to make it so simple that even the least educated person will say, “I can do that; it’s not that difficult.” After all, obedience is caught rather than taught. We don’t present something complicated that requires a lot of education, facilities or money. The idea from the very beginning has been a self-sustaining and self-propagating ministry. It’s the responsibility of the Bhojpuri people to take the gospel to their own and to other people, and that’s what they’re doing.

Dave:  The Bhojpuri movement is one of the longest-lasting movements still continuing with CPM dynamics. This would seem to show it’s not just a fad.

Victor:  Yes. The movement is still moving. In years past some people invested a lot of time and effort in things that turned out to be just a fad. Some have been reluctant to invest in catalyzing a CPM, afraid it would also turn out to be a fad. But God is so good! Multiplication continues, and we see there’s nothing inevitable about a movement ending or turning into traditional churches.

Dave:  Back in the 1990s not many people were using the term “CPM.” When this ministry among the Bhojpuri began in the mid-90s, what were you envisioning? What words were you using to describe what you hoped God would do?

Victor:  At that time, “church growth” was very popular. It was heavily commercialized and there were loads of seminars on church growth. The megachurch model from South Korea was also popular, and megachurches in the US were a big thing. But I didn’t think that trying to build a big church would reach the Bhojpuri. I was thinking in terms of something like the book of Acts – small and rapidly reproducible house churches. Instead of having a 500-member church, I thought it would be better, even if the churches only had 10 people, to have 50 churches. It’s easier to reproduce and the cost is much lower. To run a church with 500 members is a huge project – with staffing, building, maintenance, management and administration. All of those things cost money.

Small house churches with no paid staff can easily reproduce. They are also less threatening to outsiders and less likely to invite negative reaction and persecution. I saw back in the 90s that we needed a model of church that could easily go underground if needed. And that’s exactly what’s happening now, in the present scenario of hostility.

This current persecution is not a strange surprise for us. We’re not sitting around saying, “Oh, no! What are we going to do, now that we’re experiencing severe persecution?” We are continuing to do everything like usual, just being a little more careful. A lot of organizations have had to shut down, let their staff go or change what they were doing. But we’re growing, and the newer movement to our east, influenced by the Bhojpuri, is also growing. We are preparing for much greater harvest to come.

Dave:  Speaking of persecution, what are some other challenges you’ve faced over the years?

Victor:  One challenge was organizations with more traditional models wanting to grab a piece of the action. The Bhojpuri movement had a very difficult year in 2011. A lot of organizations came, then distracted and hired people. That created a lot of confusion and I got very discouraged. I thought, “Maybe this whole thing will die or disintegrate.” But the ministry continued and that challenge strengthened local leaders who remained as decision makers. They took more ownership of ministry within their area instead of working as evangelists under someone else. Whatever they knew they used. That’s when I started the saying, “If you know one thing, obey one thing; if you know two things, obey two things.”

Another challenge was the low level of education among many of those being reached. Some people might wonder: “How can a person start a church and mature a church if they have very little knowledge?” But knowledge was not the key; it was obedience to Christ and willingness to really practice what little they knew. This was not people lining up to be hired for jobs; this was ordinary people obeying the Lord and seeing him bless their exercise of faith in everyday life. They know how to incarnate themselves and present Christ among a very hostile community.

A more recent challenge has arisen from the extent of the movement. The nation’s majority feel caught by surprise by what has been quietly multiplying in their midst. The Hindu militants thought that Christianity was only what they had seen for 200 years – a foreign import from the West, with visible structures and foreign patterns. Suddenly they’ve discovered that people are turning to Christ in ways that don’t turn them into Westerners. An article published last year quoted government minister Giriraj Singh blaming Christians for converting people “silently.” He said, “It is Christians who are doing maximum [sic] number of religious conversions in the country, that too silently.” I never thought I would live to hear that complaint.

Dave:  Sometimes people travel through an area where a movement has been reported and they don’t see evidence of it, so they conclude there’s not really a movement happening there. How would you respond to that?

Victor:  (laughs) You can walk in a jungle and never see any animals. That doesn’t mean there are no animals in the jungle. Some people have a certain image in their minds of what a Church Planting Movement will look like. They think they’ll see people crying in the streets, or shouting at the top of their voice that they’re saved. They expect to see crosses on top of the houses, and no more temples or mosques or idols. They have this fantasy that when a movement happens the area will look very Christian. Maybe that happens in some places, but not in a context like ours. We don’t have people streaming to church buildings on Sunday morning. Bhojpuri believers live, dress and eat like other Bhojpuri people. They gather to worship in relatively inconspicuous ways. We have God doing something wonderful in the midst of all the turmoil and idols. His kingdom is silently penetrating – like yeast – into areas where Christ has never before been worshiped.

One man visited our area, looked around and told me, “I don’t see any movement going on.” I said, “Good!”\

He asked, “Why do you say that?”

I answered, “Because the movement is safe from people like you who come to teach the believers ‘how to be a Christian,’ and end up destroying the movement.” Sometimes I’m very blunt. But the fact is that too many Christians would like to “convert” the movement’s believers so they become “better Christians” according to their own definition. Their idea is usually more head knowledge or more Western influence and less reproducible obedience.

Dave:  In your book, you tell about the Bhojpuri movement cascading into other ethno-linguistic groups to begin gospel breakthroughs. At this point, how many other groups would you say have been impacted directly by the Bhojpuri movement?

Victor:  About eight different language groups across Northern India have been impacted and those language groups have different sub-groups within them. The work in at least one of those has already reached the point where it can be classified as its own Church Planting Movement. I just attended a conference of theirs and was very encouraged to see the Lord blessing that work. It has now become a fast-growing movement, not dependent on finances or a single leader.  The nature of the gospel is to multiply and spread. We praise God for the ways it continues to do that among the Bhojpuri and is now spreading among other groups as well. 

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Is It Time to Declutter the Great Commission?

Is It Time to Declutter the Great Commission?

Started by a Japanese woman, a recent viral movement is spreading rapidly. All over the world, people are growing more and more enthusiastic—to declutter.

The person behind this movement is Marie Kondo, otherwise known as Japan’s declutter queen. Ms. Kondo, founder of KonMari, propagates a method of organizing and decluttering our lives and homes that is catching on. It even has a spiritual component. Her basic premise is that “anything that doesn’t make you happy or isn’t absolutely necessary should be touched, thanked, and sent on its way.”1

More and more, I’m thinking the global mission community should take Kondo’s advice about decluttering—both in a physical and a spiritual sense. Before I elaborate, allow me to first take you on a journey via The Voice version of the Bible, which lays out the following account like a script in a play:

The day after, John saw Him again as he was visiting with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, he announced again:

John the Baptist: Do you see Him? This man is the Lamb of God, God’s sacrifice to cleanse our sins.

At that moment, the two disciples began to follow Jesus, who turned back to them, saying:

Jesus: What is it that you want?

Two Disciples: We’d like to know where You are staying. Teacher, may we remain at Your side today?

Jesus: Come and see. Follow Me, and we will camp together.

It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they met Jesus. They came and saw where He was staying, but they got more than they imagined. They remained with Him the rest of the day and followed Him for the rest of their lives. One of these new disciples, Andrew, rushed to find his brother Simon and tell him they had found the One who is promised, God’s Anointed who will heal the world. As Andrew approached with Simon, Jesus looked into him.

Jesus: Your name is Simon, and your father is called John. But from this day forward you will be known as Peter, the rock.

The next day Jesus set out to go into Galilee; and when He came upon Philip, He invited him to join them.

Jesus: Follow Me.

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, came from a town called Bethsaida; and he decided to make the journey with Him. Philip found Nathanael, a friend, and burst in with excitement:

Philip: We have found the One. Moses wrote about Him in the Law, all the prophets spoke of the day when He would come, and now He is here—His name is Jesus, son of Joseph the carpenter; and He comes from Nazareth. (John 1:35–45)

This is an absolutely beautiful description of what missions is all about. As we try to obey the Great Commission, someone starts the process like John the Baptist—telling others who Jesus is and what He has done on behalf of people. Along with the news comes an open invitation to join Him. Some who hear the invitation intend to come and taste and go on a few days’ journey with Jesus. But before they know it, they get more than they imagined—and they end up following Him for the rest of their lives.

For those who experience Jesus in this way, their experience is so alive and refreshing that they go and invite others in their oikos to meet Jesus. Before long, a grassroots, viral movement of disciples for Jesus who make more disciples has begun. These profound and amazing outcomes line up with the heart of the Great Commission, and yet they are so simple and spontaneous.

Although the successful process of making radical disciples of Jesus, as described in John 1:35–45, was grassroots, light weight, and inexpensive, we tend to add all our stuff to the process of mission. We add elaborate organizations, substantial buildings, professional-style worship, seminarystyle preaching, expensive poverty alleviation projects, and ambitious fundraising plans to the work of the Great Commission. In this way, we add a yoke to simplicity, spontaneity and reproducibility.

By and by, we take something that was mobile, light, and reproducible by everyone and make it doable and reproducible only for those who have the means and space to accumulate stuff.

JR Woodard and Dan White Jr. urge us to declutter our church approaches: “If our model can only be reproduced by paid clergy or the most dynamic speakers, it will stunt genuine movements. We often talk so intensely about our buildings, budgets and bands that we have crowded out the minimalism of the first-century church.”2

Due to the proliferation of Western Christianity, people around the world today can hardly conceive of church without buildings, budgets and bands. Yet none of these three elements are key to Jesus-led movements as described in the gospels and the book of Acts. Just as those who have means tend to fill their houses and spaces with unnecessary clutter, so the mission community has filled the world with unnecessary clutter that chokes out simplicity, spontaneity and reproducibility.  

Maybe it is time we use Marie Kondo’s approach in our mission strategies: take anything that doesn’t add joy to our lives in Christ or isn’t absolutely necessary, touch it, thank it, and send it on its way.3


  1.     top-tips-to-joyfully-declutter-your-home-from-marie-kondo

  2. 2 JR Woodward and Dan White Jr., The Church as Movement (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016), 36.

  3. 3 Marie Kondo claims that her method was inspired by Shintoism.  While I am not advocating the practice of Shintoism, I do believe that decluttering the Great Commission from our manmade junk is a biblical and spiritual act.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Enduring Persecution in India

Enduring Persecution in India


Some Ways God is Working through Persecution

By the Leader of a Church Planting Movement in India

In this season of persecution, I feel like God has given Satan permission: “Do what you want to those believers in India.” I know that in history the church has grown, not just in spite of persecution but because of persecution. In 1950, when the Communists took over China, there were about one million churches. Horrible persecution ensued, and believers throughout the world feared that very little might remain of the Christian faith in China. But in 1990, when the Bamboo Curtain lifted and news reached the outside world, we learned that in the midst of persecution the church had multiplied incredibly, yielding over 70 million churches!

In the context of our movement, even with persecution, over 300,000 people celebrated Christmas 2018 in their house churches and small gatherings. Almost all of that number have become followers of Jesus during the past six years. They have always faced some persecution, but 2018 definitely brought a huge increase from previous years.

God is building maturity into the main stewards of this movement (leaders at various levels) as a result of and through the persecution they face. Here are a few of the ways:

1. Believers are rising to meet the challenges. They are afraid; they are sometimes afraid to answer a knock on the door. But they don’t allow their fear to lead them. They don’t live intimidated lives. The fear doesn’t stop them. They are standing firm.

For example, the amazing gospel multiplication happening through Kamal and his connections can be seen in the 12-minute video “Ordinary People; Extraordinary Gospel.”  This group lives very simply at  the bottom of society. Some people came from outside the area and told them that since they follow Jesus, they could no longer live here. Kamal and his people, the lowest of the low, stood up to them. They said, “No, this is where we live and this is our home.” So they were rounded up and taken to the police station. They had to pay extortion to be released and go home again. Up to the present, police show up almost daily and “arrest” the men of this community, so they have to pay again and again to be released. A (Hindu) lawyer has gone with them to the police station to try to address this injustice. They are under great pressure, but they continue standing up to the challenge.

2. People in the movement are growing in patience. Area leaders wait patiently for the movement leaders to visit when they can, but they don’t demand it. The movement has spread across four states (a large geographical area), and those involved have very little money. Visiting the various areas requires both time and money. The persecution keeps visits from happening as often, partly because finances are stretched even more thinly from responding to persecution. Also, if leaders from outside an area show up too often, it causes problems and more persecution. So we see illustrations of the biblical truth that “suffering produces perseverance” (Rom. 5:3).

3. The believers know who they are in Christ. They understand their identity in Him and they own it. They refuse to let traditional Christians dissuade them from who they are in Christ (as Paul instructed the Galatians when he asked, “Who has bewitched you?”) They refuse to be persuaded away from the identity He has given them, even when it results in persecution (whether from traditional Christians or from non-Christians).

4. The movement leaders (52 area leaders plus further generations of leaders) are stepping up in their role as stewards of their “Timothys” and churches. This includes stewarding finances, discipleship and managing house churches. It also includes the process of growth in authority. This stewarding of decentralized leadership has become even more vital with the increase in persecution. The word “steward” is new for us.  We no longer want to speak of movement leaders, but movement stewards. It is a biblical word, and explains well how the leaders feel— not only the top leaders, but all the main core group.

5. Increased persecution has brought a response of increased generosity from the believers. They have only opened their pockets even more, rather than letting the persecution cause them to fear and become selfish in their fear. They are gaining a better understanding of how to make good decisions about the use of money based on what little they have available. Churches are generous with those in need. Funds come from the movement itself, from within the house churches. Generosity is flowing from church to church and up the chain to leaders and area leaders as people have need.

These are a few of the ways God is maturing His church here in the midst of increased persecution in these days.

Persecution and Women in North India

By a Movement Leader in North India

Persecution takes many forms; too many to illustrate in one article. These vignettes of persecuted women in North India illustrate both the human suffering and the power of God.

In Haryana

In a nation regarded by many to be one of the most dangerous nations on earth for women, the Indian state of Haryana could be considered the epicenter of the misogyny and violence. About two and a half years ago, a believing woman in Haryana invited her neighbor, Reshma, to come over and participate in a Discovery Bible Study in her home. She knew that Reshma’s family had many problems. She wanted Reshma to hear a true story about the true God and to receive  prayer. This friend felt sure that if the group could pray for Reshma, God would help her with her every need. Reshma attended the Bible study and the story of creation amazed her. What wonderful news! There is a God above all gods. When He made the world, He made it beautiful and good. The world had not always been as it is now, full of violence, aggression, oppression of women, sadness and loss. This news watered the dry soil of Reshma’s heart. She attended three more Bible studies in her neighbor’s home.

Thrilled about the good news she was learning, she began to share the stories with relatives in the village. Her husband became furious when he heard about her activities. How dare she leave the house? How dare she promote Christian stories? He determined to put a stop to the nonsense and he took her to the roof of their home, held her over the edge and vowed he would throw her off if she didn’t stop telling people about this Jesus.

The next time Reshma met with the other disciples, she informed them through tears of her husband’s threat. They told her to stop reaching out. She replied, “What I am learning [about Jesus and His commands] encourages me to share this. I cannot stop!”

Soon, Reshma’s husband heard that she was still sharing about Jesus with their relatives and neighbors. Thankfully, he didn’t follow through on his threat about the roof but he did imprison her in a room in their home. Before locking the door, he declared, “No one will meet together. You are separate from our family and will not see your children.” Reshma prayed.

Six weeks passed. One day, her husband was badly injured in a fall from the tractor out in their field. With her husband confined to his bed, he allowed Reshma out of the room in order to serve him. She kept praying. She cared for her husband for 22 days, bringing meals to his bed and feeding him. Over time, he began to treat her politely. Finally, his arrogance melted into humility. After he became able to get up and walk around the house again, Reshma dared to ask, “Are you still angry with me? If not, can I do Jesus’ work?” He didn’t reply. Reshma took his silence as permission. Thrilled, she began again to share about Jesus with others.

The first person Reshma visited was a relative named Madhu. Madhu had noticed a change in Reshma’s husband. She said, “Your husband seems changed. Are you doing something with him?” Reshma told Madhu about all that had happened. Madhu was very impressed by God’s ability to soften and change the heart of Reshma’s husband. So much so that she gave her allegiance to God and joined Reshma as a coworker in the kingdom.

Three months passed. One day, Madhu shared a true story with a neighbor named Maravan and his whole family. They liked what they heard, so Madhu began a Discovery Study in their home. Madhu’s three children were afraid of Maravan. Like most men in Haryana, he was aggressive and rough. He owned a small shop near his house, but his shop wasn’t doing well. He finally told Madhu, “If you will pray for me and God brings financial change to my shop, I will believe this God is true.”

Madhu prayed, God blessed the shop, and Maravan and his whole family gave God their allegiance. Soon, Madhu’s children began to see a change in Maravan. He was a new man. Maravan began sharing with others about what was happening to him and his family. One neighbour, Krish, and his household, soon gave their allegiance to Jesus because of all that Maravan shared.

Then Krish shared with another man and his family who also gave their allegiance to Jesus. So within nine months, five generations of disciples were birthed in this area of Haryana, the most violent state in India, one of the most violent nations on earth. So far, 42 people have been baptized from among these five generations. The words from Luke (1:78b-79) ring in our ears: “the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace” (NKJV).

In a different state of India

Six months ago, we visited a very poor family who lived in a hut. We encouraged the woman and a couple of her children to listen to God’s Word and His stories—from Creation to Christ. We told them: “Listen over and over and over again. Then make sure you discuss the stories for the greatest benefit. We can’t always visit you, and even the area leader cannot always visit you, but you always have God’s Word.”

We returned six months later and met this family again. This time, the woman’s husband and many extended family members also joined us. They seemed much happier this time than previously. I asked why they seemed happy. The wife and a few of the others immediately began crying. She said that every day during chai time she had listened to the stories. Her husband also listened, as did her son and his wife, who lived with them.

In the past, her husband drank too much and beat her. Her son also drank a lot and beat his wife. After hearing the story about Adam and Eve over and over again, the men came under conviction. They exclaimed: “This story says you were taken from my rib? That means we are same body! But I beat you and drink too much!” The husbands began to recognize the value of their wives and treated them differently.

In this village, the wives normally joined their husbands working in the fields. We learned that since we had first come and shared with them, the women were now sharing the stories with others as they worked. The daughter-in-law had also shared with her own mother in a different village. She was so happy to share the news, “My husband loves me!” She shared her testimony with her whole family.

Her brother and his wife lived with her parents. Her sister-in-law, who was also abused, heard her testimony and said, “I want those stories too!” That’s how it happened that on our second visit, the daughter-in-law brought her whole family to talk with us. As  a result, two generations of families now follow Jesus and have been baptized.

I have been asked, “Why is the gospel advancing so rapidly in this region?”  There are a few reasons, but one of the main ones is that the people here are very poor (poorer even than the typical poor of India) that the women have to work as well as the men. Without the women working, they don’t have enough to eat. When women work out in the fields, they have freedom to share the Bible stories with other w and isolated in their homes as are women in much of India. In this area, they are free to do what they naturally love to do: share the stories with their friends and pray for each other. The men don’t feel threatened because the women just share stories while they are out working. They not only pray for the sick and demonized, but they own the identity of living as a disciple and making other disciples. This leads to rapid spread of the gospel.

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

The Reality of Weeds

The Reality of Weeds

A number of years ago, I was working on a Church Planting Movement (CPM) assessment team that was evaluating the presence of a large CPM in South Asia among Muslim background believers. Our team divided into pairs as sub-teams to head to various parts of the country to interview dozens of precious believers—some new in their faith and some leaders of churches or networks of churches. When the various sub-teams returned to the capital, a wide range of emotions was evident based on the findings the various pairs had turned up. Those that went to the oldest areas of the movement had an amazingly uplifting time of testimony after testimony of God bringing salvation to places that had previously been demonic strongholds. These teams were elated to say the least. They had seen God’s hand working in power.

On the other hand, a couple of the sub-teams (mine included) visited areas that more recently had seen breakthrough and didn’t have a very long track-record of church formation and leadership development. Personally, I went into my interviews full of faith and hope for what we were going to learn about what God was doing in this movement.

However, as the interviews progressed, it soon became apparent in one interview of two young “pastors,” that instead of pastors we had imposters. As can happen so easily in this region, these young men thought there might be financial gain in visiting us posing as pastors. With our Muslim-background translator, we very quickly realized that they were not even believers.

The good news is that we were able that day to share the gospel with them and baptize both of them in front of the witnesses of their friends. We were thrilled about that, but I was still disturbed that we were not seeing what we had been led to think we would see—a movement raging through the neighborhoods and villages. Was there really a movement here? Even as an optimist, this was the question I kept coming back to. My teammate, who was naturally more skeptical, concluded that there was not.

So, when the sub-teams reassembled, the emotions were mixed. To compound the problem, the team leader asked me to lead the debrief the next day to discuss what we had learned in this CPM assessment. I felt the least qualified to lead this because I felt disillusioned from what I had seen. Nevertheless, I agreed.

After a lot of questionable village fare, the team went out that night in search of some Western food. Instead, I begged off. I needed time to fast and pray. My heart was not ready to lead a discussion the next day. I spent much of the night fasting, praying and searching the Scriptures. I needed a breakthrough from God in the midst of my disillusionment.

After some time, the Spirit led me to the Parable of the Weeds (or tares, found in Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43). For years leading up to this incident and in the years since, I have worked hard to let the parables of the kingdom define my understanding of the kingdom and not let my opinion about movements define my understanding of the parables. In other words, no matter how radical, I had to let the Word guide my understanding in all things.

Reading and meditating on the Parable of the Weeds completely cleared up the disillusionment I had been experiencing and enabled me to have a clear and neutral mind as we moved into the following day of evaluating what we were learning. What changed?

Perhaps first was that Jesus told this parable immediately after telling that magnificent Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23) and its lesson that even though we will encounter bad soil that bears no fruit, we will also encounter soil that is “movement soil” – multiplies 30, 60 or 100 times. Jesus taught us to expect movements when the kingdom comes to a place. In many CPMs, we have observed that the first Person of Peace often results in 100 other people coming to faith, sometimes 60 and sometimes 30. We have seen similar patterns where churches multiply many times over. As new believers are taught to become followers of Jesus and fishers of men by the power of the Spirit, Acts-like movements are reoccurring all over the world.

So why tell the Parable of the Weeds (which feels a bit like dumping water on the fires of our enthusiasm) after this “growth” parable? To compound the matter, Jesus then returns to two more growth parables which feel even more remarkable in their potential for expansion—the Parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven (Acts 13:31-33). Both of these teach that great movements of the kingdom will start from small, humble beginnings.

So, again, why this sobering, somewhat discouraging parable in the midst of the others that center on growth and hope? Before I answer that question, it is critical that we remember a basic rule of interpretation when it comes to parables. We must let each parable stand on its own and let images (word pictures) be interpreted unique to that parable. In other words, sometimes the image of “seed” refers to the word of the kingdom (Matt. 13:19). However, in the Parable of the Weeds, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom (Christians) and the bad seeds are the sons of the evil one (non-Christians; Matt. 13:38). The Greek word used for “weeds” or “tares” refers to an imposter plant – one that resembled wheat for a while before becoming evident that it was not wheat. This sounded to me a lot like the “imposters” we had led to faith who were posing as pastors.

The sower in the Weeds Parable does not refer to us but to Jesus as the good sower (Matt. 13:37) and the devil as the evil sower (Matt. 13:39). The reaping in the Weeds Parable has nothing to do with the reaping of souls for Jesus as a result of salvation. Instead, it refers to the end of the age when the angels will reap the sons of the kingdom for heaven and the sons of the evil one for hell (Matt. 13:40-42).

Jesus is describing a different reality by changing the images He uses in the Parable of the Weeds from those He used in the Parable of the Sower. That’s why it is critical to let each parable stand on its own and contribute its unique message to the truths of what the kingdom is like.

Why tell this sobering parable in the midst of the growth parables? A reality check, plain and simple.

Jesus didn’t want His disciples expecting trouble-free growth and expansion of the kingdom. But instead, as He has done before, He is giving the disciples a reality check. He issued other warnings to His disciples in other growth contexts. For instance, He clearly foretold difficulties and persecution for disciples as they pursued the mission:

16 Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. (Matt. 10:16-18, ESV)

As I sat upon my bed that night in South Asia, pondering the truths from the Parable of the Weeds, God seared this truth, or reality check, into my soul:

REALITY CHECK: The presence of weeds (imposters; non-believers) does not invalidate the presence of wheat (real believers), nor does the presence of weeds invalidate the presence of a movement.

Armed with this simple truth, I was able to lead the group through a healthy debrief the next day. We came to realize that imposters, posers, non-believers with duplicitous motives and other similar problems do not mean that a movement is not raging around us. In fact, at times, it almost seems to be more likely that we would have a movement accompanied by many weeds. It appears from the parable that the devil is actively trying to 1) attack movements of the kingdom and 2) disillusion us or cause us to become jaded when evaluating movements.

For some reason, we develop this false idea that a movement means an absence of problems. Nowhere is that implied in Scripture. Rather it is usually the opposite:

  • Jesus puts this reality check parable second in the line-up of growth parables.
  • The book of Acts, which describes movement after movement, shows the attacks, difficulties, disbelief and false prophets that go with that.
  • The epistles are clear that false teachers will arise and scatter many of the sheep.
  • For years, I had this verse taped to my desk where only I could see it:

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

(Prov. 14:4, ESV)

Production comes from having oxen, and with them comes a lot of poop in the manger!

Whenever there is life and growth, expect problems. Smile and remember that these problems might be a sign that a lot of good growth is emerging as well.

We must be pretty naïve to think that God will move in power but that the devil will not follow along on the heels working his own wiles. We have an active adversary and need to be on the alert at all times. At the same time, the lesson of the parable seems to imply that we should not focus on pulling up all the weeds1. That is ultimately God’s work. Instead, we must not become distracted weed-pullers but rather avid wheat cultivators.

By the end of our debrief time in South Asia, I think that most of my colleagues had circled around to trust the truth of the reality check above. In God’s providence, in the larger country-wide movement, some of us had seen more wheat and some of us had seen more weeds.

Frankly, weeds no longer bother me. I actually find their presence slightly reassuring that I am seeing a real movement. In fact, I almost entitled this article “The Reassuring Reality of Weeds.”

However, let me highlight three more truths to remember from this parable. They are three more reality checks:

The presence of weeds is no guarantee of a CPM. The most we can say from this parable is that they do not rule out its possibility. Remember that the enemy is at work in a variety of situations. I’ve seen imposter Christians planted in the deadest of churches.

The presence of weeds is no guarantee a great work is about to break out. I’ve heard this one too many times, and this cannot be implied from this parable. We say, “Wow! The fact that the enemy is attacking must mean we are about to see a great breakthrough!” This is not necessarily true. The devil is no prophet. He does not foresee the future. He may just be attacking. Period.

The lack of weeds should make us a bit suspicious when a CPM case study is presented. Movements have problems. There’s no way around it. When presenting a case study of a movement, acknowledge those problems;  if there are none, examine whether you really have a movement. If it sounds too good to be true, it may not be true. When I receive reports from those I disciple and train, I probe deeply to make sure that what we think is going on really is. I’m not worried about encountering problems along the way. They reassure me that we are dealing with the real world, a real enemy and a triumphant God!

So, let’s press onward toward kingdom movements in every place. Let’s do so with eyes wide open that the enemy is at work at the same time. Though we don’t prefer to have problems, they don’t invalidate the work we do. Keep your eyes focused on the wheat and cultivate a Church Planting Movement in the power of the Spirit.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John. 4:4, ESV)

  1. This does not mean that we ignore discipline which is a critical aspect of body life. However, we must not go on witch-hunts to root out all problems. If we do, the believers (wheat) get neglected in the process.

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

The Genius of Wrong

Building the Right Church Depends on Using All the Wrong People

The Genius of Wrong

I was sitting at a table with an old friend who leads a large and thriving church. “We try to make everything easy for the members of our church,” he said to me. “We encourage them to get to know people in our community, whether in their neighborhood or office or anywhere else. Then all they have to do is invite those people to church. At church, those people will hear relevant, gifted communicators in a warm, attractive, and appealing environment where their children can be a part of top-of-the-line programs.”

He concluded, “If our members will just invite their friends to the environment we create, then we can take care of the rest.”

Then he asked me what we do at Brook Hills. Hesitantly, I said, “We actually do the exact opposite.” “Oh really,” he said. “What do you mean?”

“Well, when we gather as the Church, our main focus is on the Church. In other words, we organize our worship environment around believers, not unbelievers.”

He looked confused. “Why would you do that?” he asked. “If your worship environment on Sunday is not appealing to non-Christians, then how is your church going to intentionally lead unbelievers in Birmingham to Christ?”

“We’re going to equip our people every Sunday to lead unbelievers in Birmingham to Christ all week long,” I said.

“Your members are going to lead them to Christ?”

“That’s our plan.”

“Well,” he said, “once those unbelievers become believers, how are they going to grow in Christ?”

“Our people are going to be equipped to show new believers how to live as followers of Christ,” I said. “I want people in the church to be able to fulfill the purpose for which they were created without being dependent on gifted preachers, nice buildings, and great programs to do it for them.” Looking puzzled, he said, “Well, that’s a new approach.”

Now, again, I am a young pastor, and I have a lot to learn, particularly from pastors like this one, whom I respect greatly. But I don’t think I’m coming up with something new here.

I believe in the people of God. Or more specifically, I believe in the work of God’s Spirit through God’s Word in God’s people. The last thing I want to do is rob Christians of the joy of making disciples by telling them that I or anyone or anything else can take care of that for them.

Someone might ask, “But if a church has a gifted communicator or a gifted leader, wouldn’t we want as many people as possible to hear that person?”

The answer is “not necessarily.” The goal of the church is never for one person to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ. The goal is always for all of God’s people to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ.

I also believe in the plan of God. In Jesus’ simple command to “make disciples,” He has invited every one of His followers to share the life of Christ with others in a sacrificial, intentional, global effort to multiply the gospel of Christ through others. He never intended to limit this invitation to the most effective communicators, the most brilliant organizers, or the most talented leaders and artists—all the allegedly right people that you and I are prone to exalt in the church. Instead, the Spirit of God has empowered every follower of Christ to accomplish the purpose of God for the glory of God in the world. This includes the so-called wrong people: those who are the least effective, least brilliant, or least talented in the church.

Building the right church, then, is dependent on using all the wrong people.

Manufactured Elements

At one point in Radical, I described the various elements that we in America have manufactured for growing a church.1 I want to revisit the discussion I began there and take it further so we can better explore what a church might look like if it properly valued the wrong people.

It’s commonly assumed that if you and I want to be a part of a growing church today, we need a few simple elements.

First, we need a good performance. In an entertainmentdriven culture, we need someone who can captivate the crowds. If we don’t have a charismatic communicator, we’re sunk from the start. Even if we have to show him on video, we get a good speaker. And for a bonus, we surround the speaker with quality music and arts.

Next, we need a place to hold the crowds who will come. This usually means investing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in a facility to house the performance. The more attractive the environment, the better.

Then once the crowds get there, we need something to keep them coming back. So we start programs—first-class, topof-the-line programs—for kids, youth, and families, for every age and stage. And in order to have those programs, we need professionals to run them. That way parents can drop their kids off at the door and the professionals can handle ministry for them. We don’t want people trying this at home.

There it is: a performance at a place filled with programs run by professionals. The problem, though, is the one p we have left out of the equation: the people of God.

People, Not Performances

What if growing the church was never intended to depend on creating a good performance with all the right people on the stage? Where did we get the idea that this was necessary? Certainly Scripture instructs us to gather for worship.2 This is nonnegotiable—but not necessarily in the way we usually think about it.

Imagine being in a church on the other side of the world where it is illegal for the church even to exist. You wait until midnight, when everyone else in the village is asleep, to quietly leave your house. Under the cover of darkness, you sneak down winding roads and past silent houses, looking around every corner to make sure no one is following you. You know that if you or anyone else from your church is caught, you may never see your home again. For that matter, you may never see the light of day again.

Yet you continue on until you round a bend, and there you see a small house with a faint light emanating from it. Checking one last time to make sure you have not been tailed, you slip inside. There you are greeted by a small band of brothers and sisters who have made the same long trek. As you look at their weary but expectant faces, you realize something: not one of them has come because a great communicator has been scheduled to speak. Not one is present because a cool band is scheduled to play. No, all are there simply because they desire to gather with the people of God, and they are willing to risk their lives to be together.

Performance has nothing to do with it. People have everything to do with it.

Whenever I am in churches overseas like the one just depicted, I am reminded of how much we have filled our contemporary worship environments with performance elements such as elaborate stage sets, state-of-the-art sound systems, and high-definition video screens. I am also struck by our reliance upon having just the right speaker and just the right musician who can attract the most people to a worship service. But what if the church itself—the people of God gathered in one place—is intended to be the attraction, regardless of who is teaching or singing that day? This is enough for our brothers and sisters around the world. But is it enough for us?

I am haunted by this question on Sundays as I stand in a nice auditorium with a quality sound system and large video screens on the wall, all designed to spotlight select people on stage. It’s not that everything in this scene is necessarily wrong, but I do wonder what in this scene is biblically best and practically healthy for the people of God. I have more questions than I have answers on this issue, and I am grateful for leaders in our worship ministry who are willing to ask the questions with me.

I mentioned earlier that we recently cut 83 percent of our worship budget. We did this not only to free up resources for urgent needs around the world but also to scale back our emphasis on nonessential elements of corporate worship. We want to focus on ways we can cultivate the best people: a people who love to pray together, fast together, confess sin together, sing together, and study together; a people who depend more on the Word that is spoken than on the one who speaks it; a people who are gripped in music more by the content of the song than by the appeal of the singer; and a people who define worship less by the quality of a slick performance and more by the commitment of a humble people who gather week after week simply to behold the glory of God as they surrender their lives to Him.

Where Will Our Lives Count?

Isn’t this the model of Jesus? During His ministry on earth, He spent more time with twelve men than with everyone else put together. In John 17, where He recounts His ministry before going to the cross, He doesn’t mention the multitudes He preached to or the miracles He performed. As spectacular as those events were, they were not His primary focus. Instead, forty times Jesus speaks to and about the men in whom He had invested His life. They were His focus.

When He came to His ascension, Jesus had no buildings or programs to point to and no crowds to boast of. Indeed, most of the crowds had walked away. Just 120 unschooled, ordinary people were gathered—a small group with a small band of leaders.

And He had given them one command as their commission: make disciples. Do with others what I have done with you, Jesus had said. Don’t sit in a classroom; share your lives. Don’t build extravagant places; build extraordinary people. Make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples, and together multiply this gospel to all peoples. This is the simple command that was to drive the Church. And this is the simple command that is to drive each of our lives.

I don’t want this command to be treated as optional in my life or in anyone else’s life in the church I pastor. Personally, I have an intentional disciple-making plan that involves sharing life with and multiplying the gospel through my family, a small group of men within our church, and church planters we are sending out from our church. I don’t want to imply that this plan is always smooth in practice or easy to implement. Like you, I am constantly beset by the busyness of life and the responsibilities of leadership, and if I am not careful, disciple-making fades into the background. As a result, I want to act intentionally, for if I forsake the priority of people then I will miss the purpose of God.

Every one of our pastors and church staff has designed similar disciple-making plans. In addition, we help all new members in our church to outline their plans for how they will be involved in making disciples of all nations.3 The key for all of us is an intense desire and intentional effort to make every one of our lives count for the multiplication of the gospel in the world.

Regardless of your place in the Church, remember that you are not intended to be sidelined in the kingdom of God. You may at times feel like the wrong person, thinking you are not gifted enough, smart enough, talented enough, or qualified enough to engage in effective ministry. This is simply not true. You have the Word of God before you, the Spirit of God in you, and the command of God to you: make disciples of all nations. Whether you are a businessman or a businesswoman, a lawyer or a doctor, a consultant or a construction worker, a teacher or a student, an on-the-go professional or an on-the-go stay-at-home mom, I implore you to ask God to make your life count where you live for the spread of the gospel and the declaration of His glory to the ends of the earth.

A Better Way

A house church leader in Asia once wrote how persecution in his country had stripped his church of its resources. Yet, in his mind, this had been a good thing. “We soon found that rather than being weakened by the removal of all external props, we were actually much stronger because our faith in God was purer,” he wrote. “We didn’t have any opportunity to love the ‘things’ of God, so we just learned to love God! We had no plans or programs to keep running, so we just sought the face of Jesus! We don’t believe the world needs another single church building. They need Jesus, and they need to worship and grow in God’s grace with other believers… according to the pattern of the first Church in the New Testament.” Then this house church leader concluded, “When we finally reach the end of all our useless programs and give up in desperation, Jesus will always be there to show us a better way—His way.”4

This is the beauty of the plan of God, particularly when we contrast it with the plans we create that are dependent on performances, places, programs, and professionals. If the spread of the gospel is dependent on these things, we will never reach the ends of the earth. We will never have enough resources, staff, buildings, events, or activities to reach all the people in our community, much less all the peoples in the world.

But we will always have enough people. Even if they seem like the wrong people.

If eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee were enough to launch the gospel to the ends of the earth, then a church with a handful of members can spread the gospel in and beyond a community, regardless of the amount of material resources it has. The plan of God is certainly not confined to large churches or gifted leaders. The plan of God is for every person among the people of God to count for the advancement of the kingdom of God.

What if each of us were actually making disciples who were making disciples who were making disciples? Is it too idealistic to dream that the church of God, unleashed for the purpose of God, might actually reach the ends of the earth with the gospel? Is that realistic? You bet it is. In fact, it’s guaranteed. Jesus has promised that every nation, tribe, tongue, and people are going to hear the gospel, and it is going to happen through all of us.5

  1. 1 David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2010), 48–50.

    2 Hebrews 10:24–25.

    3 You can find a template for our new member disciple-making plans on our church’s website. Go to impact.html and click on “Homework Assignment #3.”
    4 Quoted in Brother Yun, Peter Xu Yongze, and Enoch Wang with Paul Hattaway, Back to Jerusalem (Waynesboro: Gabriel, 2003), 64, 108, 133–4.
    5 Matthew 24:14; Revelation 7:9–10; Romans 10:13–15.

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

MOVEMENTS:  Do We Want Them Badly Enough to Change?

MOVEMENTS:  Do We Want Them Badly Enough to Change?

Do you want a movement of disciple-making and church-planting to take place in your city, where disciples make disciples and churches plant churches faster than the growth in population? How badly do you want it? Do you want it badly enough to change the way you have always done church or lived your own personal spiritual life? Because if you live in the West or employ Western practices of doing church, then you will most likely need to reconsider your ministry practices if you want any hope of seeing a movement develop in your area.

The good news is that Kingdom Movements are taking place all over the world with 707 now counted. The bad news is that only seven movements, yes just seven, are taking place in Western Europe, North America and South America combined. That is barely one percent of the total. This issue answers the question of what we must do to change this situation because what we are currently doing is not working. As Jerry Trousdale and Glenn Sunshine point out in our lead article starting on page 8, the West or Global North has gotten seriously off track from what we need t do in order to see an abundance of movements in our midst.

The “technology” of how movements start and grow is not new. Movements were the norm in the New Testament period when the book of Acts recorded the  amazing spread of the  gospel  after  Jesus’  resurrection. There have been movements throughout church history such as the Wesleyan movement in Britain. The global Church in our day is beginning to rediscover the lost understanding of how we can help foster movements. Unfortunately, the church in the West is still largely oblivious to what God is doing through the 707 Known Kingdom Movements, not knowing that the principles of how movements start and grow can be applied to their local contexts.


The church in the West has developed a way of doing business that kills movements before they ever get started. The charts on pages 14–15 provide a great comparison between the way we typically do ministry in the West and what is typical of how movements work. Study these charts carefully to see where you may need to make changes in the way you think about doing ministry.

In order to see an abundance of movements in the West we will need to rid ourselves of the following movement killers.

Prayerlessness. Our  desire  to see movements to Christ can be measured by how much we pray and fast to see a movement develop. There are certainly exceptional churches and individuals who are real prayer warriors, but we need far more than we have right now. In order for massive prayer and fasting for movements to take place, we will need to have a vision for movements in the first place. When prayer does happen in the church, it is largely focused on the personal needs of the individuals in the church, not on the bigger  picture  of  expanding  God’s kingdom through movements in every people and place. We should not neglect the real needs of believers, but in order to foster movements we must be praying fervently for them to develop. Additional prayer will be difficult for most of us but it is a sacrifice that will pay far more dividends than our currently feeble efforts done in our own strength.

Passivity/Dependency. For most of us in the West,  our  spiritual  lives are centered upon the church we attend. We spend most of our time listening to our pastor or other church leaders. We become passive audience members with  virtually  no  accountability  for  application of what is being taught.  Instead,  the church must become a training center where believers are equipped to carry the gospel to our individual contexts of friends, family and coworkers, not depending on the pastor to do the work of ministry  for us. God has called all of us to  go and make disciples—becoming entrepreneurs of ministry. David Platt makes this change in ministry mindset clear in his wonderful article starting on page 26.

Our Unbiblical Traditions. Over the centuries many ways of doing things have developed in the various churches and denominations. In many cases these traditions have become wonderful ways of helping people learn biblical truth. But other times these traditions or ways of doing things get in the way of applying biblical truth and obeying what Jesus has asked us to do. Obedience to Jesus and his Word must be central to what  we  do. We must not allow our comfortable ways of doing things to get in the way of seeing movements develop. We face the same danger as the Jewish  leaders  in  Jesus’  day  when Jesus said to them in Mark 7:9 (ESV) “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” Learn the biblical practices that characterize movements and eliminate those practices or traditions that prevent movements from starting.

Building Our Own Kingdom. The article by Michael Breen, An Obituary for the American Church, starting on page 22 points out three devastating problems plaguing the American or Western church. These plagues are celebrity, consumerism and competition. Each of these maladies focuses our attention on building our local church kingdom at the expense of the overall kingdom of God. It is a sad reality that there is virtually no church growth in America today. We are not gaining ground on the overall culture and society. Virtually all church growth in the U.S. is transfer growth where the growing churches are doing so at the expense of other  churches. Are new people getting saved each year? Absolutely! But while new people are coming in the front door others are  leaving  out  the  back.  If we are to see movements to Christ in the West, there will need to be a new spirit of cooperation between churches—where pastors and their church members care more about the growth of Christ’s kingdom than their own. This is a tall order in a society that is so competitive, but   as long as the measures of church/ pastoral success are the size of the facility, the budget and the church attendance, movements will be few and far between.


As we seek to foster movements in every people and place, including the West, we face some unprecedented challenges.

A Culture in Crisis. The Bible and biblical values were the foundation upon which all of Western civilization was established. It used to be that the Judeo-Christian value system was generally accepted  and  supported by the culture—not any more. The cultural hostility towards biblical values and beliefs is no longer subtle, but open and blatant.  Whether  in the realms of politics, entertainment, media or academia—biblical values—and those that hold to them, are greeted by open ostility and derision if not outright persecution. The result of this widespread rejection of biblical truth is a Western culture in crisis and decline.

A Church Unprepared. While  the Western culture is in crisis, the Western church is struggling to cope with unprecedented challenges. You do not have to look very far to see abundant evidence that the  church in the West is fighting to remain relevant to a surrounding culture  that is increasingly looking elsewhere for the answers to life. A 2015 Pew Research study shows an Evangelical church that is barely holding its own with a slight decline while Mainline Protestant and Catholic  churches are experiencing a  major  drop-off in adherents. The fastest growing group is the “Nones”—those people who claim no religious faith at all. The one bright spot in this picture  is that as the cultural  support  for the church wanes so also does the number of cultural or nominal believers. When faced with increased cultural opposition, nominal believers are increasingly placing themselves in the “None” category. What remains is a purer Church  with more true believers willing to pay the price for their allegiance to Jesus. This can be the basis from which the Western church can foster growing movements to Christ, but we will need to change the way we do ministry.

Movements in the West are possible, but we must be courageous enough to recognize where we have fallen short and to embrace the biblical, book of Acts like practices that make movements possible.

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

Global Mission Work is Different for “Digital Natives”

Global Mission Work is Different for “Digital Natives”

It is a privilege for me to be able to travel globally and connect with mission leaders. I have good friends all over the world. I often joke with conference organizers, “THANKS so much for organizing this event so I can meet some of my friends!”

One of the things that those leaders tell me is that they are concerned about some of the newer “digitally native” global workers. Many received their first smart phone as a child. This is different than my married son in his 30s—who is a native computer user—but he doesn’t mess much with a smart phone.

These new workers grew up with a phone in their hand. The vast majority of what they know—real or not—in the world has come through images in their hands. So, as they go, one concern is how they will adjust when “friends” are defined less by proximity and more by social media presence. That feeds into how and what they communicate from the field. In many ways, it redefines what “field” and “home” are—which can be good.

Many do a good job of posting photos of the culture and what it is like to live there, just like their peers back home. And, that can be helpful. But, after a while, it can look to their friends like they are merely on a continual “destination vacation”…so people may wonder “what are they actually doing?”

Some do not produce a regular communication about their work— digital or paper. They don’t seem to share much in the way of prayer requests.

Of course, many agencies require communications and in security related locations, they are smart enough to know that they can’t even post anything on social media.

I’ve found the book, 12 Ways Your Smart Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke to be helpful. Tony doesn’t tell his readers what to decide, but merely points out the changes in the way we think and act. For example, he points out things like the “addiction to distraction.”

I wrote about the way smart phones are distracting us in our May-June 2017 issue of MF. This time, my focus is on how phones actually change the way we work, learn and adjust. They can impact in good and bad ways. Cultural adjustment is difficult from the start. Will you ever learn a language well if every time you make a mistake or feel embarrassed with a cultural miscue, you turn to Instagram or Facebook? Can you exercise diligent focus on something that is new and disruptive to you?

The social media platforms are specifically designed to keep you on them. High paid developers spend their lives keeping you on Facebook for five more minutes. They also tend to make people all look great. People don’t post photos when they are crying or suffering (usually). It seems like everyone is always having a better day than you–till it is your turn to post something.

One group trying to make a difference in  training  the next generation of workers in Radius International ( They do intensive, immersive nine month pre-field training for workers going to Unreached Groups around the world. Among many elements of their training, like living in tight quarters, they do not allow them to have a mobile phone—smart or otherwise—except for one call to their family on Sundays each week.

Some from this training have found it hugely beneficial in helping new younger workers “detox” from the constant distractions of smart phones. That learned ability to focus has helped several I am aware of learn language and culture better.

There is no question that it is more challenging and complicated for everyone engaged in any kind of mission work to communicate well to those who pray and give—partly because the prayers and givers are distracted too!

Think about this for yourself (as well as those you are mentoring/discipling):

  • How much time do you spend on distractions (be careful as you define that)?
  • How easily are you distracted? Do you (like me) often forget why you picked up your phone?
  • Is it distracting you from time in the Word of God or in prayer? Do you spend more time playing games or on social media than in the disciplines of faith?

If you have a suggestion, we might use your ideas in our upcoming podcast– focused on various themes of interest to globally-minded servants around the world.

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

What Harm Could Come From Purchasing Just One Airline Ticket?

What Harm Could Come From Purchasing Just One Airline Ticket?

My friend Emmanuel,* a local Haitian Christian leader, had held two conferences at a local Haitian church. On both occasions, Pastor Evens* readily covered the costs for Emmanuel’s travel, food, and service. It made complete sense to Pastor Emmanuel that a local Haitian church should use their own resources to cover expenses for services offered by one of their own.

In the mix of these healthy Haitian relationships and local ministries, a Canadian Christian organization invited Emmanuel to come to Canada for a one-week international mission conference. They offered to pay his flight, ground transportation, and the conference expenses. Emmanuel agreed to honor the invitation. Emmanuel borrowed money from others in Haiti to pay for incidentals and food outside of the conference.

Eventually, Emmanuel returned from the conference and all seemed well—that is until he was ready to serve in pastor Evens’ church again. Listen in on the conversation between Evens and Emmanuel:

Evangelist Emmanuel: “Hello, Pastor Evens! I am about to board a bus to come to your church. I will need to be reimbursed for my travel expenses since I have no money on hand at this time.”

Pastor Evens: “I don’t understand. You just returned from a conference in Canada based on an invitation by a large mission organization. It cost a lot of money for you to go there. How could you not have any money?”

Ouch! The unintended consequences of injecting seemingly harmless foreign resources surfaced fast and furious. The ironic thing is that Emmanuel was actually in debt from his trip to Canada because he had to borrow money for incidentals.

In conversation, Emmanuel expressed to me that saying “yes” to one subsidized international airline ticket caused his peers to perceive him as an outsider rather than a credible insider. And others now counted him among those who had a foreign patron and his new link to Western funding should somehow trickle down to them.

Emmanuel now realized he needed to use caution when accepting offers from international Christians, churches and organizations. Unfortunately, he had to learn the hard way.

Western mission and church organizations love to invite church leaders from developing countries to come to their homelands to participate in conferences, fundraising campaigns, special trainings, fellowship and even rest and recreation. They see it as a way to honor their so-called global mission partners with an opportunity to participate in something they hope will be special for everyone. As illustrated by the account of Emmanuel and Evens, there is a thorny side to these invitations and charitable gifts that make it all happen. 

Jean Johnson, in her book Standing On Our Own Feet Workbook, shares about twelve types of giving that can easily destroy dignity. One of those types of giving is:

Giving that creates division: This form of giving sows jealousy and competition among local churches and people that would not have been there without artificial infection of money and influence from the outside.

I am fairly sure the organization that invited Emmanuel to Canada will never even hear about how their invitation and subsidy made Emmanuel and Evens stumble in disillusionment, nor about other thorny repercussions.  

The apostle John wrote, “Anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.” (1 John 2:10) The most loving action we can give those around the world is to discover ways to allow leaders to be firmly planted in their own nations—making room for them to mobilize local resources, create indigenous ways to meet and train and support one another.

Notes: *Not their real names. Jean Johnson, Standing On Our Own Feet Workbook (Xulon Press: Maitland, FL, 2018), 78.



This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

An Obituary for the American Church

An Obituary for the American Church

From time to time I will have the people I’m discipling write out their own pastoral obituary. I ask them to write out how our enemy would take them out, rendering them unable to serve their family and communities. As you can imagine, the answers vary, but it always serves as a really helpful exercise as they are forced to confront issues of character, etc.

Taking this same exercise I’ve used with pastors, for the past year I’ve been thinking how the enemy would/might be trying to take down the American church. Now what I’ve noticed is that the original temptations Jesus faced (which can best be boiled down to Affirmation, Appetite and Ambition) are somehow warped and insinuated into the culture. As each culture is distinct and different, a smart enemy would come at each culture in subtle ways, tempting them in ways they don’t see or expect, and with things that would look different from culture to culture.

For instance, the issues the European church deals with are actually quite different than the ones the American church is dealing with…even though often times they are put under the same broad umbrella of “Western Church.” Sure, there are some similarities, but the attack is different. More nuanced.

But those original temptations of Affirmation, Appetite and Ambition are slowly insinuating themselves into everything we call CHURCH. We just often don’t recognize it or see it.

This is how, if our enemy gets his way, the American church could be taken out:

A culture of CELEBRITY (affirmation)

A culture of CONSUMERISM (appetite)

A culture of COMPETITION (ambition)


The idea of celebrity is deeply woven into American culture and values. All you have to do is look at the ridiculous nature of reality TV and you see how Americans are constantly craving celebrity (either to be a celebrity or to find the next celebrity and stalk their every move). Now there is nothing dark or sinister about “celebrity” in and of itself. You can’t find an argument that says Jesus wasn’t a huge celebrity in His day.

However, there is a difference between being famous and being significant. If Jesus was famous, it’s because He was doing something significant. The problem with many pastors is they make decisions, develop personas and define success from the lens of what will make them a celebrity/famous (even if they don’t know it or see that they are doing this). In American church culture, it’s pretty easy to become a celebrity: grow a HUGE church. Now all in all, it’s not terribly difficult to grow to be a giant church if you have the right tools at your disposal…but that doesn’t mean the ends justify the means of getting there.

For instance, though Jesus was a celebrity in His day, He was willing to say things that ran people off in droves. In fact, the book of Mark chronicles the way (from about the mid-point of the book on) people left Jesus to where, at the end, virtually no one was left. NO ONE wants to be associated with him for fear of the consequences. That’s not something you see too often in American churches.

I suspect it’s because driven deeply into the American psyche is the desire to be a celebrity. And American pastors are very susceptible to this. Many subtle things happen in people who desire this kind of celebrity status:

  • They can disengage from the community and isolate themselves, setting themselves up for moral failure.
  • They can make decisions that are numbers driven and not always kingdom driven.
  • They can skew to a shallow understanding of the gospel as opposed to a holistic one that leads people to discipleship.
  • They can put the good of their church (their personal kingdom) over the good of God’s Kingdom.

Question: In what ways are your decisions made by a subtle undercurrent of ambition and a hope for celebrity?


We live in a culture that revolves around consuming. Every TV commercial, every store, every credit card company, every bank, every TV show or movie, every piece of clothing, car or product, every website, every restaurant…everything is tailored to fit your desires, needs or personal preference. We are easily infuriated when things don’t happen exactly as we want them. We exist in a place that implicitly says this: “We are here to serve you and meet your every whim and desire. Let us take care of you.” What’s more, it’s never enough.

Eventually the house or the car get older and we want new ones. The clothes aren’t as fashionable and we want something more in style. That restaurant is getting boring, we must find another. Our favorite TV show is wearing thin, so the search begins for the next favorite. And on and on and on. This is how we are wired to think in the United States and it is all backed up by this rationale: you’re worth it. You deserve to have what you want, how you want it, when you want it. And for the most part, the church plays the exact same game.

We do the best we can to provide as comfortable an experience as humanly possible, using every means at our disposal to attract them in (and then keep them in). We tailor what we do around their wants and desires. That’s Marketing 101, right? The problem is at the end of the day, the only thing that Jesus is counting is disciples. That’s it. He doesn’t seem to care too much about converts, attendance, budgets or buildings. It’s about disciples. And, by nature, disciples are producers, not consumers.

Yet most of our churches are built around feeding consumers. I’d argue 90% of the Church’s time, energy and resources are linked to this. But the issue is this: the means you use to attract people to you are usually the means you must use to keep them. In other words, if you use consumerism to attract them to your church, it often means you must continue using it to keep them…or else they will find another church who will meet their “needs.” And yet, that consumer mentality is antithetical to the gospel and to the call of discipleship.

Disciples aren’t consumers, they are producers. Jesus cared about disciples more than anything else.

Question: In what ways is your church community using consumerism as the means to draw people to a gospel that is, in and of itself, anti-consumerism?


You will never find a more hyper-competitive culture than you do in the United States. As a foreigner living in this land, I can attest to that with the utmost respect. Americans love to win, they love the struggle of the journey and love holding up the gold medal of victory. Now don’t hear me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being competitive, it’s just how competition has become warped and twisted within our culture. And it’s that, at least in the Church, where we are competitive about the wrong things.

Much of the American church finds itself competing with the church down the road. “Are we bigger than them? Do we have more influence than them? Do we have the best/ biggest youth group in town? Do people like to get married in our church building? Do people like our church better than theirs?” The fact of the matter is that there is a battle, we do have an enemy and we should be competitive…but against our enemy! What we haven’t seen is how crafty he is. This seems to be the alliance he has struck with the American church: “I’ll let a good chunk of your churches grow…just not at the expense of my territory.“

What happens? 96% of church growth is due to transfer growth and not churches striking into the heart of our enemy’s territory. We’ll consider it a win because we have the new service or program that is growing, but that growth is mainly from people coming from other churches. That’s not a win! That’s a staggering loss. Furthermore, for many pastors, we don’t think we’ve won until we’ve won AND someone else has lost. Seriously?! For sure, we have an enemy and we should be competitive, but we should be competing against our enemy, knowing that the final battle has already been won, and not competing against our own team members. So gifted and skilled is our enemy, so conniving is he, that he has convinced us that beating the people on our own team is victory while he stands back and laughs, rarely having to ever engage in conflict, protecting his territory. He is beating us with a slight of hand, with a clever distraction, turning us against ourselves.

Question: In what ways are you competing (both in actuality or simply in your mind) against people who are on your own team?

In all honesty, it isn’t that the American church will ever truly die or cease to exist. It will always be there. But it is entirely possible that if these three critical issues aren’t addressed and dealt with, it will be a hollow shell that is spiritually listless.

If we think through Celebrity, Consumerism and Competition, the anti-body against all of these is sacrifice. Learning to lay down what builds us up and giving to others instead. Learning to serve, rather than to be served. Looking for anonymity rather than celebrity. To build a culture of producers rather than one of consumers. To live in a vibrant, sacrificial community fighting a real enemy rather than competing against the same community God has given us to fight WITH rather than AGAINST. It’s about sacrificing what we want for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom, regardless of our advancement or desires.

Clearly this is what Paul was getting after in Philippians 2:6-11 when describing the attitude of Jesus as taking on the attitude of a servant, willing to sacrifice all acclaim and equality with God. It was a willingness to set aside and sacrifice celebrity, consumerism and competition at the altar of the incarnation.

Fifty years ago, as these three subtle threads were being woven into the American church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. serving as a prophetic voice, said this:

If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.  

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

24:14 Goal - Leadership Lessons

Movement Wisdom from an Asian CPM Leader

24:14 Goal - Leadership Lessons

Sam* is the national leader of a large six-year-old Church Planting Movement in South Asia. He shared with me a summary of lessons they have learned and applied in their ministry. When he finished, I asked him, “Are these lessons about movement leadership too difficult for less educated people to really grasp?” He responded, “No, actually I learned all these things from the ground level leaders (M, J, R, and others who can’t read)!”

The Lord loves to bless those who speak and act in humble faith (as we see in Acts 4:13). Here are highlights of this movement’s leadership principles.

  1. Be very clear about money matters. Be honest and transparent about this with leadership. It’s such an important issue.
  2. All leaders must love each other. This is the Lord’s command. (John 15:17) When leaders meet together they must show love to one another, no matter how much or little fruit they are seeing. We are all on the same team and should not compare results. Mutual encouragement happens when you celebrate everyone’s successes, primarily led by top leadership and modeled that way.
  3. When leadership groups meet, we ask about their challenges. Sometimes they say: “Everything is good; really no challenges.” If a leader is not sharing their troubles, they are confused about what is success and what is not. A good leader will share both successes and challenges. This shows trustworthiness.
  4. When you think the ministry is growing, you should distribute more responsibility to leaders. Some leaders won’t distribute responsibility and this is a great hindrance to the kind of growth and multiplication the Lord wants to bring. It shows too high a view of oneself and too low a view of others.
  5. In the past, we did 1.5 day trainings and one day trainings, always attended by Gen 0 and Gen 1 leaders but never by younger leaders. Now we only do three-to-five-hour trainings in one day in smaller groups, and people are sent home the same day. Gatherings of small groups not staying overnight receive much less attention. This helps with security concerns and allows us to connect to the deeper generational leaders.
  6. When we are starting something new, we are thinking about the end vision. We make decisions in light of our goal (end vision). It keeps us on track. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Run in such a way as to get the prize….we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly.” (1 Cor. 9:24-26; see also Heb. 12:2; 2 Tim. 2:4-6) 
  7. We teach our leaders that things will never stay the same. Changes will be needed; flexibility is required. We don’t need to change movement principles but we need to adjust applications along the way because nothing stays the same. We need to listen to what the Father is saying and follow it as Jesus did. (John 5:19; 17:4; 20:21) Listening to the Lord will guide us through any needed changes.
  8. We don’t always need to find good people. Sometimes we need to connect with bad people too. I cannot find the same person as I am. Each person who becomes a leader will be different from me. It’s my responsibility to help them become mature as a disciple-maker. It’s not essential that every believer be a good leader.

If we spend time with them, they can become a good man or woman in the Lord. As Paul wrote, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly.” (1 Tim. 1:13-14a, see also through v. 16)

  1. A mentor should believe in his disciple. I have to trust my disciple. We see this in the ministries of Jesus (Luke 10:1; John 4:2; Luke 22:31-32), Barnabas (Acts 9:2628) and Paul (1 Tim. 1:18, 2 Tim. 2:2, 1 Cor. 4:17). This is part of leading lovingly: to always protect, trust, hope, and persevere. (1 Cor. 13:7)
  2. If I have a bad experience with someone, I need to come out from under that and not get stuck in it. Get out of the situation and let it go. Leave that place and that person and tell them, “I am trusting you to Jesus.” Pray for them, but know when it’s time to move on. Both Jesus (Matt.10:14) and Paul (Titus 3:10-11) warn us not to get stuck in unfruitful relationships.
  3. I can’t let my disciple lean on me too much, but instead I help him to lean on Jesus. I don’t need all the answers. Jesus has all the answers. Jesus is the only rock on which we build. (Matt. 7:24-27) As He said, “They will all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him comes to Me.” (John 6:45) I mustn’t aim to build my empire, only God’s kingdom. This is not about me. It’s not about my glory. I am to do the task God has given me; it’s God’s job to make things grow. (1 Cor. 3:1-7) I aim to make disciples of Jesus (Matt 28:19), not disciples of myself.
  4. Every mentor should be teaching the Bible, not personal ideas about the Bible (as the Pharisees did—Matt. 15:1-9). The Scripture itself is the tool God intends to use. (Heb. 4:12) It is useful to thoroughly equip God’s servants for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17) We see this pattern modeled for us in Paul’s mentoring of Timothy. (1 Tim. 4: 1-16)
  5. God chose us for this work, so we must hear from Him about doing this work wherever He sends us. (Eph. 2:10) I must listen and obey Him. I must apply first before I can share with others. (James 1:22-25)
  6. Don’t try to be part of a big crowd. The crowd is not important. Never try to win a crowd; try to win one family or one house church. Then they will become a crowd one day by reaching many other families.

Only one DBS (Discovery Bible Study) is needed to reach a great many. Focusing on a crowd will not reach one family, but one family can reach a crowd. Beginning in Genesis, God established the pattern of reaching many through one family. (Gen. 12:1-3, 28:14) Jesus modeled knowing when to prioritize a small group over a crowd. (Mark 7:16-18)

  1. Treat time as important; invest your time wisely. The psalmist calls us to “number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12) The teacher informs us that, “There is a time for everything.” (Eccl. 3:1-8) Jesus says we must work while there is daylight. (John 9:4) And the apostle Paul commands all believers. “Be very careful, then, how you live— not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16)
  2. A movement must touch every group. If we are not reaching a particular people group in our sphere of influence, we must pray about that and ask God what He wants us to do. He will give us a way to reach them. His care for all peoples is mentioned throughout Scripture, for example in Ps. 22:27; 47:1; 72:11; Matt. 24:14; 28:19; 1 Cor. 9:19-23; 1 Tim. 2:1-6 and Rev. 15:4.
  3. When we have God’s strategy, no one can stop it. Use the wisdom He has given and follow His commands. The Bible teaches us this over and over. For example, in Josh. 1:7-9; Ps. 37:4-6; Prov. 3:5-6; 14:12, John 5:19-20 and James 1:5.
  4. Sometimes we get proud of what we’ve been doing. Pride is a dangerous thing. I don’t need to be proud about my work or what I’ve done. Leaders must remain humble and always be teachable. This is proverbial wisdom, the command and example of Jesus and the teaching of the apostles. (Prov. 13:10; John 15:5; 13:3-17; 1 Cor. 3:5-8; 2 Cor. 3:5; Phil 2:3-11; James 4:6-16)
  5. You have to respect yourself, respect your family and respect others. Sometimes leaders only focus on the ministry but not the family. Those folks will get stopped along the way and will not be healthy. Personal and family health are very important for truly succeeding in ministry. This can be seen in biblical commands for the household (Deut. 6:4-7; 1 Tim. 5:8) and the criteria given for choosing leaders. (Titus 1:6-7; 1 Tim. 3:4-5).

* pseudonym


This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

Getting Kingdom Right To Get Church Right

Getting Kingdom Right To Get Church Right

What comes to your mind when you hear about a movement of God in which almost 200 churches were started within three years in a remote people group? 

What comes to your mind when you hear about a movement of God in which 150,000 urban and rural churches were started in a ten-year span?1

Incredulity may be your first response, perhaps followed by suspicion or excitement. Yet Church Planting Movements (CPMs) like these are spreading around the world in all types of cultures and religious worldviews. In these movements, successive generations of disciples and churches move consistently past the 4thth generation in a short duration of time.

These movements sound foreign to many of us who have lived in more traditional churches where the kingdom has been established for centuries. But CPM-like movements are not simply a modern phenomenon. They have characterized the kingdom of God from Acts onward throughout church history. 

Both Scripture and church history demonstrate that our Father wants such movements to be the norm when the Lord’s Prayer is fulfilled: “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!” 

Get Kingdom Right to get Church Right

 As disciples throughout history have made it their priority to see the kingdom explode among lost populations, they have often seen churches multiply rapidly generation by generation through ordinary new believers. Unfortunately, as churches become established, a tendency emerges to consolidate efforts and focus more on the church development than on kingdom expansion. Which priority is right? Kingdom first or church first? Both are important, but to get church right, we must get kingdom right. 

Gospels: The Priority of the Kingdom

Jesus’ entire ministry was focused on initiating the kingdom of God. He used the word “kingdom” over 100 times, while He used the word “church” only twice. His first words in Mark were about the kingdom: 

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”(Mark 1:15, NASB) 

The word “repent” means to change your whole way of thinking. The present tense signifies a continuous action— “keep on changing your whole way of thinking.” Jesus was launching a kingdom so radical in nature that we must realign our whole concept of what God wants to do in and through us, especially in how He will do it. This includes how we live as Church. 

Jesus’ central prayer was about the kingdom: 

“9Pray, then, in this way:  Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

10’Your kingdom come, Your will be done,  On earth as it is in heaven.’” (Matt. 6:9-10, NASB) 

Jesus taught us to pray that our city, neighborhood, nation or people group will so reflect His glory and reign that it is like heaven on earth. Does Jesus ask us to pray for something that He doesn’t intend to fulfill? God is not satisfied with a handful of believers, small groups or churches in a people group or city. His vision is for a multitude of people worshipping Him from every people group. 

Jesus’ central mission was about the kingdom: 

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”(Matt. 24:14, NASB)

 Everything in history is moving toward this final destination. His final teaching in Acts was about the kingdom: 

“To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”(Acts 1:3, NASB)

 Jesus’ first, central and last words were about establishing the reign of the King. They summed up His life mission. His mission must be our mission. 


Establishing the Kingdom Through the Church

In Acts, the word “church” is used twice as much as the word “kingdom.” The next progression in Jesus’ strategy to establish His kingdom on earth was taking place—planting multiplying churches as agents of His kingdom coming on earth.

 But clear in the thinking of the early disciples was the priority of establishing the kingdom through the church. Their priority was still the King and reaching the lost through expanding His kingdom. For example: 

And he [Paul] entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. . . . He withdrew from [the synagogue] and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:8-10 NASB) 

The result was that many churches were established as the kingdom was established. In the one movement above in Acts 19, most likely dozens of churches or more were started in this Roman province called Asia—churches that matured deeply and spread rapidly. Most scholars agree that in this two-year span of time the seven churches of Revelation were started by new disciples like Epaphras in Colossae (Col. 1:7). 

Even the closing words of Acts are about the kingdom: 

And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. (Acts 28:30-31, NASB)

From the beginning to the end of Jesus’ ministry His focus, both personally and through His disciples, was on the King’s reign. 

Jesus knew that if we could get the kingdom (King-reign) right, we would get church right. 

Romans to Revelation:

A Balanced Approach and a Caution

The word “church” is used more in Romans to Revelation, almost three times as much as the word “kingdom.” Yet we continue to get a balance of expanding the kingdom while establishing the church. The vision of the Lord’s Prayer continues to imbue the New Testament church and the paradigms of church are subjected to the needs of the kingdom. In Revelation one church is praised that its latter works exceeded its first (Rev. 2:19), while others are chastised for losing their vision and love for the King (Rev. 2:4). This latter church was the Ephesian church which saw such explosive growth decades earlier in Acts 19 cited above. 

There is a lesson here for us: It is easy for churches to subtly shift their focus from the King and His kingdom, often becoming obsessed with themselves and their own successes, structures or traditions. The church then and today is in danger of repeating the mistakes that Jesus chastised the Jewish leaders for:

“And he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!’” (Mark 7:9 ESV) 

How easy it is for us to elevate the church along with our structures, programs and traditions above the vision of knowing the King and establishing His kingdom. We easily lose sight of the end-vision. When we focus on church first, we get kingdom wrong. 

Why Church?

Yet make no mistake: Church is at the heart of God’s kingdom plan! It is not either church or kingdom. It is both. When the Church submits herself to the King and His kingdom ways, then the Church emerges in all her intended glory!

God’s plan from the beginning was to sum up everything in heaven under His son Jesus: 

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

Yet God’s plan has always been to fill the universe with His glory through the church, the bride of Christ and body of Christ: 

And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:22-23 ESV) 

The Church was meant to be the agent of filling the whole earth with the glory of God—His King-reign—as the body. The Church was meant to be the eternal companion of the Son as the bride. Ephesians 5 and Revelation 19-21 present a glorious picture of the Church being presented to the Son spotless and radiant. All of history is moving toward the preparation and presentation of this bride to the Son. 

This is why we focus unquestionably on Church Planting Movements, not simply people movements. We don’t start churches because this is the most pragmatic way to reach people. We start churches because this is God’s plan in His eternal kingdom. 

In fact, starting churches is intensely pragmatic, but that is the beauty of God’s design in establishing the church as a visible expression and means of His kingdom. It is easy for new believers to lose headway in their spiritual growth if they are not incorporated as a part of the precious body of Christ locally.

What Will it Take to Reach All of the Lost?

Church Planting Movements

The history of the church from Acts to the present is replete with new movements of multiplying disciples and churches. Throughout history, men and women, burdened with the question, “What will it take to reach all of the lost?” have subjected their preferences, traditions and paradigms to the vision of kingdom expansion. 

In an age in which the evangelism of most established churches and denominations lag far behind population growth, fresh examination is required to answer that simple question: “What will it take to reach all of the lost in our generation?” Believers from all traditions must cry out to the Heavenly Father with the same humble desperation of that first prayer: “Father, cause your kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven!” 

There are places in the world in which the numbers of new disciples and churches are growing faster than the pace of local population, or showing signs of moving in that direction. These Church Planting Movements in their varicolored hues recall to us the vision of kingdom come and the spirit of Acts. They hearken back to historical movements such as the Wesleyan movement or early Baptist church-planting. Only through movements in which, through the priesthood of the believer, each disciple carries the DNA and authority to pass on what he or she has learned and can train others to do the same, will we see the lost reached in our generation. 

Sacrificing Paradigms of Church for the Kingdom

Yet in all movements, questions arise about the new forms, the new church paradigms, the new methods, the new ways. Whether the Apostle Paul or John Wesley, these paradigms are initially derided by the established Church. But through sheer endurance and lasting fruit, many of these paradigms eventually become the norm. Too often what is radical today is commonplace tomorrow. 

Historically, the leaders of these movements have sacrificed their expectations, paradigms and structures for the good of the kingdom. Their desire to see the kingdom come and the Word obeyed has challenged them to surrender their ways of doing things to the Spirit’s leadership. They have been more preoccupied with building the kingdom than on perpetuating a particular model of doing church. Their goal has not been a perfect model of church but a perfect spread of the kingdom. 

There is no uniform biblical model of what a church must be. We see numerous examples of culturally adapted models in the Scriptures. There is room for a number of types of churches fulfilling unique roles in each society.

In pursuing the vision of the Lord’s Prayer, however, for the sake of reaching all of the lost, we often advocate reproducible churches that can spread endlessly through a society by the hands of ordinary believers led by the Spirit. 

The Spirit is moving in powerful ways around the world. We are always in the same danger that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day faced, of hardening our methods and structures against the Spirit: 

“Neither is new wine put into  old  wineskins.  If  it  is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”(Matt. 9:17 ESV) 

The church is in ferment around the world because the wine of the Spirit is in ferment. Our first desire must be the Spirit of the King and His kingdom come. Let us adjust our structures to what He directs by the Word in each new community. Let us not become hardened, self-focused and brittle. Rather let us be inspired in these pages to sacrifice our paradigms to the spread of His kingdom in every people! 

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

Remembering Don Richardson

June 23, 1935–December 23, 2018 Tribute to a Pioneer Missionary, Author & Great Commission Statesman

Remembering Don Richardson

A runner all his life, missionary influencer and pace-setter Don Richardson completed his life’s race in Orlando, Florida, in Orlando, Florida, ten months after his diagnosis with brain cancer.

The oldest of four boys, Don spent his early years in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. His father moved the family to Victoria, British Columbia, in the hopes of securing a more promising future for them, before his own death to Hodgkin’s disease when Don was 11. Don’s life direction was set as a teen when he gave his life to Christ at a 1952 Youth for Christ rally. He subsequently met Carol Joy Soderstrom while training for ministry at Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta. They were lovingly married for 43 years until her death in 2004.

In 1962, Don and Carol embarked with six-month-old Stephen on a missionary career in Netherlands New Guinea (now Papua, Indonesia) under the sponsorship of Regions Beyond Missionary Union (now World Team). They served for 15 years among the Sawi, a stone-age tribe of cannibal headhunters who idealized treachery. Don and Carol planted churches, designed an alphabet, taught the Sawi to read, and translated the New Testament into their native tongue. In time, and with the involvement of several missionary co-workers, many of the Sawi came to Christ. The gospel replaced warring and headhunting with peace and good will.

In the early 1970s, Dr. Ralph Winter, then a professor at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Mission, heard Don speak at a church service. “You’ve got to write a book,” Ralph urged Don afterward. “I’ll contact a publisher for you!”

Back in the jungles of Papua, Don documented the Gospel’s breakthrough among the Sawi people in his first book Peace Child (Regal Books, 1974). Selected as a Reader’s Digest condensed book upon publication, Peace Child immediately became a best seller. A similarly named companion film featuring Don and Carol quickly became a staple at mission conferences across North America.

Don’s second book, Lords of the Earth (Regal Books, 1977), recounted the martyrdom of two missionary co-workers, a dramatic plane crash, and the discovery of yet another “redemptive analogy” – stone-encircled “places of refuge” – among the war-like Yali tribe.

Don’s third book, Eternity in Their Hearts, documented how the concept of a supreme God has existed for centuries in hundreds of cultures around the world. The book soon became “required reading” in seminaries and Bible colleges. Christians worldwide were inspired afresh by the notion that God has “prepared the gospel for the world,” and “the world for the gospel.”

In 1977 Don began serving as World Team’s ministerat-large, speaking at dozens of events each year in North America and worldwide. The Richardsons moved to Pasadena, CA, joining Ralph and Roberta Winter to assist in the founding of the U.S. Center for World Mission. With the emergence of the “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” course, Don became a frequent contributing lecturer, a role he relished for 40 years.

Don was an ordained pastor and held an honorary doctorate of literature from Biola University. After Carol Joy’s passing in 2004, Don eventually met and married Carol Joyce Abraham, with whom he moved to Orlando and enjoyed ongoing fruitful ministry.

Don’s books and teachings have helped to shape missions discourse and influence two generations toward whole-hearted engagement in the Great Commission. Don’s subsequent titles, including Secrets of the KoranHeaven Wins, and A Man from Another World explore other arenas of theological and cosmological interest. A short inspirational film called Never the Same explores the ongoing impact of the gospel 50 years after Don and Carol’s arrival among the Sawi people.

In addition to his public ministry, Don enjoyed painting scenes of tribal life in New Guinea, tournament chess, running, summiting 33 “fourteeners” (peaks rising above 14,000 feet), and spending time with his beloved family. Don’s four children have also been involved in missions, three of them in Indonesia. Don’s son Steve serves as President of Orlando-based Pioneers.

Don’s memorial service, a memorial fund benefitting the next generation of Papuan church leaders and missionaries, and a fascinating trove of historical photos and tribal paintings can be viewed at a website provided by the family:


I received my call to missions at Urbana ’79, but it was the books and messages of Don Richardson that fanned the flames of my growing mission vision over the 10 years between my call and the start of my missions career with Frontier Ventures. His books fed and nurtured my understanding of the missionary task. Whenever I read Gen. 12:1-3, I think of Don and the wonderfully engaging way he had of connecting people to that promise made to Abraham and our responsibility today to bring the blessings of God to all peoples. No one this side of heaven can measure the tremendous impact that Don had in helping to launch and foster the frontier mission movement. He will be greatly missed.

—Rick Wood, Editor, Mission Frontiers


“I remember reading ‘Eternity in Their Hearts’ somewhere before we went to work in the Muslim world. Don’s approach to looking for what I would later call the fingerprints of God in other cultures was, for me, profoundly worldview altering. I know in his later years our views of how God might work among Muslims differed, but I remain deeply indebted and grateful to Don for many of my own missiological instincts. He shaped my ministry.”

—Dr. Kevin Higgins, General Director, Frontier Ventures




This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

Celebrating Small Wins Will Get You to the End Game

Celebrating Small Wins Will Get You to the End Game

“I haven’t started a DMM yet, so I am not qualified to teach about this,” she said.  My friend saw herself as someone who had not yet “arrived” in the world of Disciple Making Movements. The group of house churches this amazing missionary started only reached the third generation. She was an effective disciple-maker.  Her disciples were certainly making other disciples.  She embodied both the DNA and the vision to see movements launched.

“Is the bar too high?” I wondered after hearing her say this . “After all, there are less than 700 movements in the world.” Those movement leaders are busy training leaders within their movement’s streams.  Somebody has to teach about the multiplication of disciples and DMMs!” Why not her?

I understand my friend’s logic. I am a believer in the principle “Do First - Then Teach.” There are other factors to consider though. The indicators we have created for measuring a Disciple Making Movement’s growth are not the only ways to measure success.

“It has to have reached the fourth generation,” we say.

“They should multiply 100 groups within three years” is another one.  These are important factors to track and She measure.  No argument there.  The question remains. Are they truly what we should be looking at as we measure and success in moving toward a Disciple Making Movement?

Be Careful of Unhealthy Legalism

 Fixation on benchmarks like these can cause an unhealthy legalism.  It throws us into the “shoulds.”  Instead of enjoying the divine process of multiplication as it unfolds, we feel stressed. We may even experience a sense of hopelessness after years of effort.  It’s likely we may question whether a Disciple Making Movement can ever happen through us. At times, these DMM benchmarks feel quite burdensome.

It is easy to focus on what is not happening, failing to celebrate what is.  This is not God’s design for us as DMM  practitioners.  In pursuing the multiplication of churches among the unreached, we must learn to celebrate small but significant wins. At the same time, we constantly pursue the God-sized goal of launching something that becomes a multi-generational movement of disciples, one that is absolutely unstoppable.

A DMM “Failure” in the Slums of India

We lived in a small city in India.  It was small by Indian standards at least.  The population was around a million people. Our city contained many slum communities.  The desperately poor built makeshift homes beside railroad tracks and rivers. It was there that land was available and they constructed makeshift homes. Their need for physical help was desperate.  Even greater was the tremendous spiritual need.  They were lost and dying, having never heard about the love of their Creator.

I knew God was calling me to shine His light in those communities, to share His salvation.  Being a DMM practitioner, my natural goal was to start a movement of fellowships in the slum neighborhoods.  Radical multiplication of kingdom followers was what it would take to bring transformation to those dark parts of our city.  Without genuine disciples being made, there was little hope that our community development efforts would bring lasting change.  A movement was needed.

I will give you a spoiler alert.  We didn’t start a movement that reached the fourth generation within three years. We saw those started elsewhere. They have taken off in a number of places where I trained and coached people. We’d seen it happen in Nepal. But a movement didn’t start in the slums.  Did that mean I was a failure as a DMM practitioner?  Was I still qualified to train, speak and write about Disciple Making Movements? 

We saw many amazing things happen among the needy there.  As our team prayed for the sick, people were healed. They gave their lives to Jesus.  We started fellowships. People who had no prior knowledge of Jesus became faithful disciples.  They shared Christ with their neighbors and relatives.  We taught Bible parables and they learned those stories well.  They passed them on to others. 

Some of the disciples started new groups as brothers, uncles or sisters came to faith.  Widows were fed and cared for by local believers. That had never happened before in their localities. Suicidal women in abusive marriages were rescued and stopped from setting themselves on fire.  People who were former Shiva worshipers fell in love with Jesus and began to write songs of worship to Him. Local leaders were trained and empowered.  Contextual weddings took place.  God definitely worked there.  But we didn’t reach the fourth generation.  Was our effort a flop?  I think not.

Though what we dreamed to see in that place has not yet happened, we learned to celebrate small victories.  We came to understand that those “wins” mattered to both us and God.  Evaluation never stopped. We never stopped pursuing the goal that one day the movement would take off into radical multiplication that swept through the city, taking it by storm.  But we refused to measure ourselves only by superficial standards Jesus never created.  Instead, we rejoiced in what God had miraculously done through us there.  And in faith, we looked forward to what He was yet to do.

What Disciple Making Movement Success is Not

Success as a DMM practitioner is not about numbers.  It is not about how many people you’ve baptized, how many churches you’ve started, or what generation you’ve reached. Success is not about making sure that you have ticked off the list of David Garrison’s Elements of a CPM. It is not about following all the Fruitful Practices the Vision 5:9 group came up with.  Nor is it doing everything perfectly according to the T4T or DBS books.  Formulas don’t start movements, God does. 

He sees your heart and efforts to obey.  God is pleased with your willingness to join Him in seeing His kingdom multiply.   Many DMM practitioners are exceedingly hard on themselves.  This doesn’t move us forward toward multiplying movements.

What Does a DMM “Win” Look Like?

How do we continue to pursue the vision of DMMs while relaxing and allowing God to do what we cannot?  We learn to celebrate small victories, giving God praise for what He is doing.  We focus on the good, proclaiming joyfully the testimonies of what God has done.  Evaluation continues as we discern whether what we are doing is leading to multiplication.  When it’s not, we make adjustments, or start afresh.

  • Did a disciple who had never shared the gospel, learn to tell their story (testimony)?  Did they share it boldly with their relatives for the first time?  That is a big win!
  • Did a new believer hear a Bible story, reflect on it and decide to obey God’s Word?  Did it lead to transformation as they began to love their neighbors when previously they had hated them?  That is also a major win!
  • Did a Hindu woman, who thought she had no value, become a confident daughter of the King?  Has she started discipling others? Training them to make more disciples?  Huge victory! Give God glory.
  • Are you starting to see a new DNA in the disciples, where everyone participates in the church? Are they seeing themselves as royal priests rather than only looking to the pastor or leader to do the work of the ministry?  That’s amazing!
  • Are new disciples developing a burden to pray for their lost relatives and neighbors?  That is a big step forward!

The list could go on and on.  Each of these are important steps forward in the journey toward launching a Disciple Making Movement.  Each one is worthy of real celebration.

Holding on to the Long-range End Game

I want to be clear.  I am not saying to throw out the goal of a rapidly multiplying, multi-generational movement of disciples who make disciples.  Don’t discard the vision of seeing a movement launched that will grow quickly and organically. And I’m not saying that reaching 4th generation is a bad measuring point. 

There is definite validity to DMM targets and benchmarks. They have been determined by those analyzing the growth of numerous movements around the world.  These things give us something to aim for.  Regularly tracking our progress toward them is important. It makes us more likely to realize the vision of releasing new movements in unreached places.

But don’t forget to rejoice over each step along the way. Don’t belittle that progress, or consider it less valuable. Reaching fthe ourth generation, or the 100 group mark is only another notch on the measuring stick.  It isn’t the ruler itself. 

Our ultimate goal is to see God’s glory cover the earth.

  • Is God being glorified in your disciple-making attempts? Then you are successful as a DMM practitioner.  
  • Is your heart still full of faith that the God who spoke to you to pursue a movement is able to bring that to pass?  Then God is thrilled with your trust in Him. He rejoices over you. 

Launching a movement is amazing.  Seeing a massive number of people meet Jesus, introducing others to him in a natural, organic way…it brings deep joy to our hearts. When God inspires unreached people to reach their own people, we stand in awe. Our mouths agape, we watch Him transform whole communities. We are humbled that we got a chance to participate with Him in that incredible transformative work. 

DMMs are worth pursuing.  They are not an interesting option or faddish idea.  Without them and the multiplication they create, we will not see the overall percentage of Jesus followers in the world increase.  The 31 largest Frontier Groups will never be impacted without the release of many, many new Disciple Making Movements. 

We cannot give up.  Nor can we allow ourselves to become disillusioned when our efforts don’t meet the criteria of what a DMM is...yet.  We must press on, try again, learn, grow, and adapt what we are doing until we see His kingdom spread like wildfire among unreached regions and peoples.

Let’s stay encouraged by learning to joyously celebrate the significant wins that come along the way.

Whether you are just beginning to pursue a movement or have already seen one take place, stop for a moment to celebrate what God has done.  Take time to notice and give thanks.  He has been at work, both in you and in those you are trying to reach.  What has He done that you can rejoice about?  Let gratefulness and joy fill your heart.

It may seem like such small progress, but it is forward movement nonetheless.  If you can’t see anything, then ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to perceive what He is doing under the surface.  After giving thanks, boldly and courageously cry out to Him for more.  He will answer our faith-filled prayers for greater fruit.  It’s His great delight to give us the nations He told us to ask for (Ps. 2:8).


This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

Unleashing the Kingdom on Toxic Worldviews and Declining Churches

Unleashing the Kingdom on Toxic Worldviews and Declining Churches

In the 1990s, intrepid Baptist missionaries were discovering biblical values and processes that consistently catalyzed  the kind of outcomes that Donald McGavran once called ‘people movements.’ 

In 2004 David Garrison published Church Planting Movements that shared what the IMB was learning about movements, and momentum and excitement began to build. 

Regular readers of Mission Frontiers know that over the last 25 years, and especially the last 15, the Holy Spirit has birthed hundreds of these Disciple Making Movements/ Church Planting Movements among Muslim, Hindu, Chinese, and Buddhist  populations—historically  resistant peoples that have become Christ followers in unprecedented numbers. 

At the end of 2018 there were more than 660 such movements. The sheer numbers of movements happening in this century reveals that God is very much moving in the world today. But although dispersed pockets of momentum and some genuine movements do exist in North America, Europe, and Oceania (i.e. the Global North), the vast majority of the movements are in Africa, Asia, and Latin America (i.e. the Global South). 

Why is that? 

This article is based on four years of research by the authors of The Kingdom Unleashed to attempt to answer that question. 

Question:    How do you inoculate someone against a disease?

Answer:       You give them a weakened or dying version of it.

Question:    How do you inoculate a culture against Christianity?

Answer:       ?

The Church in the Global North has slowly absorbed a dangerous level of humanistic ideas into our worldviews over the last 100 years. These ideas have resulted in a weakened version of Christianity that is powerless to transform communities and culture. For purposes of this article, we will focus on two interrelated categories of unbiblical thinking that have infected many Global North churches: secularization and anti-supernaturalism. 


Although evangelicals would reject the idea that they have been secularized, the evidence is clear that many have adopted not only secular approaches to evangelism but even a secularized gospel. 

To understand this, we need a definition of secularism. In the strictest sense, secularism is the idea that religion and government should not interfere with each other. From there, it is a small step to say that religion should play no role in public life—if Christians want to believe and practice their religion in private, that’s fine, but keep it out of the public square. If you ask an evangelical what Christianity is about, the response will typically be that it’s about a personal journey with Jesus, that it’s a relationship, not a religion. This view is highly individualistic: each person individually and independently must make the decision for Jesus. Family and social relationships may help a bit with evangelism, but it’s ultimately an individual decision. 

Beyond this, some people will tell you that Christianity also involves personal morality, but not much beyond that. In other words, evangelicals see Christianity as a privatized religion,  one  that  involves  “me  and  Jesus”  but  does  not have much to say to the world except perhaps concerning a few hot-button issues like abortion.

What evangelicals fail to realize is that by viewing Christianity this way, they hold an essentially secularized vision of the gospel. It is highly personal, private, and internal, and thus is irrelevant to most of the questions facing society today. 

Secularization is the Antithesis of the Gospel of the Kingdom

In contrast to this, the gospel Jesus taught would be more accurately described as the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus’ message centered on the fact that in Him, the kingdom of God had broken into the world and that God was taking back His proper authority over a world in rebellion against Him. That  is  why  Jesus’ proclamation  of  the  kingdom included a call to repent: since we are in rebellion against our rightful King, the only proper response is to turn from our rebellion and give Him our undivided allegiance.

This message is inescapably public and political: the most basic confession of Christianity is  ‘Jesus is Lord,” with the unspoken implication that “Caesar is not.” Caesar claimed authority over all areas of life; Christianity said no— Caesar had legitimate authority in some areas but not in others. God and God alone has authority over everything, including conscience, and that authority resides in the person of Jesus, who alone is Lord of all. 

Because Jesus is Lord of all, the gospel must touch all of  life.  It isn’t  only  about  personal  salvation  but  about every aspect of who we are and how we live in the world. It includes not just forgiveness of sins and personal morality, but all areas of life—relationships, politics, society, work, recreation, all. 

That means our presentation of the gospel must include not only the message of forgiveness of sins, but also a ministry of compassion. It must show in practice, through the power of the Spirit, what the kingdom looks like by working to fix what is broken in society and in people’s lives. 

Global South Movements Advance the Gospel of the Kingdom

Accordingly, two of the most unique elements of Disciple Making Movements are their holistic nature and the dramatic transformation of cultures.

Almost all movements lead with compassionate engagements within a community. These engagements are  an  expression  of  Christ’s  care  for  people’s  needs  and a living example of the kingdom. As people see this, it opens the door to discipling them to Christ, with a focus on  self-discovered  obedience  to  God’s Word;  this  brings the  community  into  greater  alignment  with  God’s  will revealed in Scripture, which leads to replicating cultural transformation. 


Another way secularism has infected the church in the Global North is through the use of secularized approaches to measuring success. Our metrics  are  often  based  on the ABCs—Attendance, Buildings,  and  Cash—rather than on Christ-followers growing in spiritual depth and obedience, disciples making other disciples, or churches planting churches. Our primary goal must be to build the kingdom, not to build our  local  church—and  they  are not the same thing. 

We must not confuse the kingdom and the Church, especially not the visible Church. If they were the same, the gospel would only apply to Sunday mornings when the Church is gathered; it wouldn’t apply to us when we’re at work or on vacation or even at home with our family. 

The kingdom extends into all these areas because the Lordship of Christ reaches every area of life. The Church exists to build the kingdom, not to build itself. The Church may in fact grow in numbers, but unless that growth is anchored in building the kingdom first, it will never be the kind of growth that engenders movements. 

The kingdom of God is not something ethereal. It is a reality, not a metaphor for the Church. Christ followers in the Global South live lives of abundant joy and faith that they carry into all their relationships, all their activities, all their interactions with others. This highlights why Jesus said over and over:

“Sell whatever has to be sold to get the kingdom, and make whatever sacrifices are required, to be part of the eternal kingdom of God.”

“Seek first the kingdom, and all these other things will be added to you.”

“Pray like this: May the glory of God in heaven be manifested where I live, even as it is in heaven, May Your kingdom be manifested where I live, even as it is in heaven, May Your will be manifested in my life and where I live, even as it is in heaven.” 


Secularism strikes at the heart of the gospel Jesus proclaimed, and in the Global North it is combined with its close cousin, anti-supernaturalism. 

If the idea that many Global North evangelicals have secularized the gospel is difficult to accept, most Christians would reject out of hand the idea that they have an anti- supernatural worldview. After all, they believe in God! But our real worldview is revealed not by what we say, or even by what we think, but by what we do by default. And many Christians and churches in the Global North act by default as if this world is all there is.

Probably the clearest example of this is our prayer life. 

Our theology says that through prayer, we have the privilege of connecting with almighty God and that through our prayers we participate with God in governing the universe. Yet according to some surveys, the average American Christian prays four to six minutes per day, including grace at meals. 

Yet in Jesus’ farewell discourse, He tells us that He would be with us through the Holy Spirit who would guide and empower our ministry; He even went further by telling us that apart from Him, we could do nothing. (John 15:15b) The question is, given what we see about prayer habits in the Global North, how much are Christians actually relying on the power and presence of the Spirit? Or are we instead trying to accomplish God’s purposes on our own, effectively doing them apart from Jesus? 

Regular disciplines of abundant corporate fasting and prayer that are the norm in Global South movements are, unfortunately, rare in the Global North. 

If you ask almost any veteran of kingdom movements, “How do you start a movement?” they will all say something like: every movement is birthed with much prayer and fasting, and must be sustained also with much prayer and fasting. Every movement is different, but they all have the same fingerprints, and they are the fingerprints of God— definitely not of humans. They all reveal the miraculous in abundance. 

So movements frequently launch with intercessors inconspicuously walking and praying through the community to be engaged, and for the team that will engage them. And as new churches are birthed, they are born with a DNA of much prayer. 

Some DMM churches have up to 80 days a year of corporate fasting and prayer followed by evenings of breaking the fast together and praying. Often everyone prays out loud at the same time, as passionate prayer and joyful worship is intertwined. These kinds of disciplines are central in the life of movements. 

And as a result, miracles of healing, deliverance, and provision are the norm. There is a sense that God is very close, very dependable and abundant in provision. He is the God of the impossible! 

And there is some very good news! Many thousands of intercessors in the Global South are praying specifically for the Global North Church, that the blessings brought to their people group by missionaries who came to their countries in the previous centuries, will be reciprocated by their 21st century prayers. 


Another way in which anti-supernaturalism and secularism combine is in the tendency of believers to rely on professionals  to  handle  “religious”  matters.  For  example, when they find someone who is spiritually open, their goal is to get the person to come to church so the professional in the pulpit can seal the deal and bring them to Christ. 

Similarly, too many families subcontract the spiritual development of their children to the youth pastor rather than performing their God-ordained responsibility to disciple their children themselves. Adult discipleship programs are built around having an expert teach us information rather than personally discovering what God’s Word is calling us to do by Spirit-led study of Scripture. 

Yet the pattern Paul gives us in Ephesians 4 is that the various leaders in the Church—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers—are to equip ordinary Christ Followers to carry out the work of ministry. Thejob of the pastor is not to do the ministry—it is to equip believers to do ministry by teaching, modeling, coaching, and training them. 

This is exactly the approach we see at work in Kingdom Movements in the Global South. Just as Jesus chose ordinary people to be world changers, so today unnumbered disciples are ministering powerfully across the Global South—empowered to do the impossible in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

A grandmother who never learned to read, memorized much of the Bible and became the leader of a huge intercessory prayer network. 

Many thousands of other oral learners have become effective disciple makers and often powerful leaders by using oral Bible resources in Discovery Bible Studies. 

Many ministries have learned how to  creatively train blind people, amputees, and others to become productive disciple makers, church planters, and gifted leaders and coaches. 

A carpenter/handyman/farmer, who is also a former Muslim, has used his crafts to enter communities and plant more than 100 churches within 12 years. 

A sports ministry in one African country planted more churches in 2018 than any other service ministry, while on another continent a sports ministry is planting hundreds of churches in restricted access countries every year. 

Many thousands of former sheiks and imams, along with some former jihadists, have become highly effective Disciple Making Movement leaders and coaches. Military and police officers have become church planters.

 Street children are making disciples.

Everyday business people in restricted access countries have become “invisible” disciple-makers. 

Untold thousands of former Muslims have become passionate and devoted intercessors when they were born again. 


Another way secularism and anti-supernaturalism show up is in reliance on techniques drawn from the secular, corporate world. Management, marketing, and media consultants tell churches how to organize and run their ministries, how to do outreach, how to target a niche market, and so on, and many churches seek out their advice rather than looking to Scripture to see how Jesus told us to do it. And once again there is often little reliance on prayer: planning meetings begin with a short invocation and continue with a long discussion, a vote, and a short prayer asking God to bless the decision the committee just made. 

In contrast, where we see movements happening, decisions are made after long periods of prayer and study of the Scriptures, focusing on Spirit-led consensus and much prayer rather than adopting models, advice and paradigms from the secular world. 

To help you see this in specific terms we have included a few excerpts from Chapter 17 of The Kingdom Unleashed, “Paradigms that Can Multiply.” 

I believe the traditionally conceived forms of ministry cannot move us beyond the current impasse because they have led to the structures that currently exist—and they continue to sustain them…. We cannot solve the problems of the Church by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created those problems in the first place…. We must thoroughly reconceive how we understand and practice ministry and leadership if we wish to truly be a movement.    —Alan Hirsch, Serving a Movement

Jesus’ descriptions of the kingdom of God include images of abundance and fruitfulness, such as catches of fish that break nets and soils, seeds, and plants that bear fruitful harvests. Jesus spoke of yeast’s power to be a medium of transformation and expansion. And He told His disciples that bringing a harvest from every people group into his kingdom would be their kingdom responsibility. He  warned His disciples to never bury the resources that they had been given but to multiply them according to their capacities. 

When we look at the Church in the book of Acts, we see rapid expansion through families and social networks, extending into new, unevangelized areas—exactly the kind of expansion that we see in the Global South today. To recover that kind of growth, the Church in the Global North will need to change its entire approach to ministry and even its vision of what the Church is about. 

The structural problems that hinder movements in the Global North begin with un-biblical worldviews that are tainted by latent secularism and anti-supernaturalism. These worldviews have consequences because they lead to ministry paradigms that do not achieve God’s intended outcomes. 

The following chart contrasts typical Global North churches and ministries with Kingdom Movements in terms of: 

  • the worldview assumptions as related to biblical values and teachings 
  • the ministry paradigms that flow from worldview assumptions, and 
  • the kinds of outcomes that flow from the different paradigms.




Traditional Ministry Assumptions

Kingdom Movement Assumptions

In some traditions, the kingdom of God is primarily a future, eschatological event, and the object of evangelism is to make converts, who over time become faithful disciples. 

The kingdom of God is the present and observable manifestation of Jesus’ reign on earth. The object of evangelism is to advance the kingdom of God by training disciple makers who will establish new churches.

Traditional Ministry Paradigms

Kingdom Movement Paradigms

People generally become a Christian by exposure to biblical teaching and lifestyles in a home, or exposure to professional pastors and leaders at a church.

God raises up ordinary people who become disciples of Christ primarily in relational contexts with a lifestyle of consistent obedience to God’s Word as the key objective.

Grow the Church centrally and incrementally through programs, winsome facilities and a welcoming spirit. Church planting is typically one-by-one.

Grows in the overall community by strategic multiplication: making disciples who make disciples and planting churches that plant other churches as a normal progression of the Spirit-filled life.

Churches celebrate milestones of growth and decisions for Christ.

Churches celebrate spiritual and social transformations, which power multiplication in places of former spiritual poverty.

Expected Outcomes

Expected Outcomes

Add new members to our church. Maximize the natural appeal to the demographic profile of the local church.

The result of disciple-making is multiplying disciples. The priority is planting new Discovery Groups that become churches among the social segments or places where the gospel has never gone or thrived.



Traditional Ministry Assumptions

Kingdom Movement Assumptions

Most traditions believe that God can and does perform miracles, but expectations tend to set limits on how to pray and what is considered possible.

Prayer is both petition and proclamation which declares that Jesus’ authority is more powerful than the gates of Hell. Prayer, by definition, is inviting the supernatural to earth.

Prayer styles and liturgies often represent the culture of the denomination and the traditions that are to be preserved. For many traditions, prayer is for miraculous interventions that facilitate spiritual transformation, and rapid replication is not an expectation.

Rapid reproduction based on prayer and discovering and obeying the Bible is common but does not typically replicate any single organization’s traditions. Local churches are free to identify as the Holy Spirit leads them.

Traditional Ministry Paradigms

Kingdom Movement Paradigms

It is risky to pray publicly for things that can only happen if God obviously intervenes.

Prayer for things that only God can do is the norm.

Strategic planning meetings and prayer meetings are separate events.

Prayer informs strategy, and strategy shapes more prayer.

Calls for corporate fasting and prayer are rare.

Each year, dozens of days of corporate prayer and fasting are common. Regular prayer meetings are often celebrations of kingdom advances, healings, and deliverances.

Expected Outcomes

Expected Outcomes

Ministry outcomes are created by great knowledge, great leadership, great funding, and great execution of programs. Prayer may also be helpful.

Ministry outcomes are primarily created by abundant prayer that results in mobilizing and empowering Christians to fulfill all of the functions of the Church.

Churches are unlikely to take risks that would obviously require divine intervention lest it discourage people if it does not happen.

There is a direct relationship between taking risks in prayer, and the process of growing in faith and experiencing the fullness of God’s Spirit. All Kingdom Movements report abundant healings, deliverances and signs and wonders.



Traditional Ministry Assumptions

Kingdom Movement Assumptions

Discipleship is knowledge-based. Obedience is assumed to follow.

Disciples discover God in His Word and choose to obey Him out of deep love of Christ.

People come to Jesus as individuals, not as part of larger social networks.

Disciples are intertwined within families and networks and are typically not extracted unless they are in danger. Even then, with prayer, God sometimes redeems the situation for the family to become disciples.

The gospel is typically presented by one outsider to many strangers.

The gospel flows relationally from one family member to friends, family, and networks. Everyone is expected to present the process of becoming a follower of Christ.

Gospel presentations are driven by a range of informational and preaching models by an expert to a group of seekers.

Discovery of God’s Word is achieved by interactive group processes with group accountability for sharing what they learn (and experience) with lost people.

High control: Outsiders orchestrating things themselves.

Disciple-making by a cultural insider results in high trust. Leaders allow others to be catalysts rather than trying to control the movement.

Goal: good church members.

Goal: transformation and fruitfulness

Traditional Ministry Paradigms

Kingdom Movement Paradigms

Outsiders use personal evangelism or crusade evangelism leading to individual decisions.

Evangelism is a process whereby an unbeliever discovers God and shifts allegiance to Christ in the context of Discovery Groups that become self-replicating churches.

Convert, then disciple

Disciple to conversion

Churches make disciples through preaching, education, and training.

Disciples are made in spiritual relationships through ongoing Discovery Groups, mentoring, coaching and making other disciples.

Expected Outcomes

Expected Outcomes

Orthodoxy and Christian character.

Obedience, transformation, and fruitfulness

Start the way you want to finish. Bring people to church to convert them, then disciple them in church as well.

Start the way you want to finish. If seekers see themselves as disciple-makers and church-planters, they naturally replicate what was done with them.




Traditional Ministry Assumptions

Kingdom Movement Assumptions

Focus on evangelism OR compassion is common. Some churches or ministries attempt both, but few are great at both.

Holistic focus on both evangelism AND compassion is normal

Church members are encouraged to be involved in approved church ministries.

Every local church and Christ follower is responsible to serve both of Jesus’ kingdom mandates: (1) compassionate service and prayers for God’s healing, and (2) being a transformed disciple and discipling others.

Traditional Ministry Paradigms

Kingdom Movement Paradigms

A relatively small percentage of compassion ministries consistently leverage the good will they create to make disciples and plant churches. A relatively small percentage of Proclamation ministries lead with healing or compassion ministries.

Evangelism, disciple-making, healing, and compassion are so deeply intertwined that they cannot be separated.

Expected Outcomes

Expected Outcomes

Compassion ministries will help alleviate some problems in the community. Proclamation ministries will result in some people coming to Christ as a result.

Holistic transformation of individuals and communities is the natural result of disciple-making.




The above are only a few of the worldview issues that we discuss in The Kingdom Unleashed, but they set up a critical question: Which of the above models seems to be the most faithful to Scripture? Which ones result in more glory given to God? 

These different worldviews lead to divergent ministry paradigms that in turn lead to polar opposite outcomes. And in this case the Global North Church struggles under the crushing disadvantage of secular and anti-supernatural worldviews. 

Certainly, the kingdom values Jesus taught were counter-cultural when He spoke them into the first century. And they are wonderfully counter-intuitive still. But they have always been true. 


While there are many other elements of the worldview that could be addressed, secularism and anti-supernaturalism are good places to start. So what can be done about them? 

As noted above, worldviews are revealed by what we do by default. It is counter-intuitive in many ways, but the way to change your worldview is to change your default actions, and the only way to do that is to acct consciously and intentionally rather than falling back into habitual responses. 

As a starting point, we suggest four places to begin, ideally in a context of discovery and accountability with a couple of other people. 

First, put far more emphasis on prayer. Take  more time to pray on a personal level and find like-minded Christ followers and meet together to pray. Use Scripture as a guide:  that’s one  of  the purposes of the Lord’s Prayer, and the great prayer warriors throughout history have used Psalms to give them words and thoughts to express worship, thanksgiving, confession and requests to God. Consider committing yourself to disciplines of fasting and prayer for God to use to advance His kingdom. 

Second, when you spend time in Scripture, put more emphasis on hearing what God is asking you to do through the passage than on simply learning it. Scripturally, discipleship is based on obedience, not knowledge (though knowledge certainly has its place). In some cases, this may be a result of obeying something explicitly taught in Scripture, though in others you may have to rely on the still, small voice of the Spirit in your heart nudging you in a particular direction. Whatever it is, do it quickly: Indonesian Christians talk about a 48-hour rule, which says that if you do not obey what you’ve heard within 48 hours, you will lose whatever insight and growth you might have gained from your study. 

Third, study carefully Jesus’ instructions to the Twelve and the Seventy-Two before He sent them out.  Be sure to look at the context as well (e.g. Matt. 9:35-38) and consider what it means for our own attitude and preparation as disciple- makers. Think carefully through how you might be able to apply what He is telling you in your own context. 

Lastly, take risks. If we are not willing to risk rejection, we can’t follow Jesus’ instructions because He told His followers they would be rejected. If we don’t pray big prayers, we won’t see big results. If we do not obey when it could cost us something, we won’t see God’s blessings on our work to anything close to the degree He wants to bless us. 

If we do these things, if we take conscious and intentional action on them, it will over time shift our worldviews ad align us more closely to a truly kingdom-centric vision. And that will create the context where movements can begin  and flourish where we live.

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

An Army of Disciple Makers from the Rainforests of Central Africa

An Army of Disciple Makers from the Rainforests of Central Africa


Pastor Ndinga often wakes up very early, because he has a busy schedule. First he goes to check the traps that he expertly sets in several places in the forest, usually a couple of kilometers from his village. Like most Pygmies, from his childhood, he learned how to hunt all kinds of rain forest animals, setting traps on their pathways. Harvesting and resetting traps usually takes him about three hours.
After coming back with the day’s prey, he will change clothes, grab his Bible, collect one of his disciples, and they will both spend the next five hours visiting a village church, its leaders and members. He uses these moments to coach and encourage the leaders and the Christ followers who are growing in their faith. Often he will conduct a Discovery Bible Study or two, to help people understand the process. 
On their way back home, he may have short visits with other villages for which he and his church have been praying. He looks forward to finding a Person of Peace, and seeing the launch of Discovery Bible Studies soon. This is Ndinga’s life, and what he wants to continue to do until every community in the area has been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. He will be back home by 4:00 pm and devote the rest of the day to gathering food in the forest. 
This pastor knows where to look for abundant fruit, both sweet food for his family to eat, and the fruit of the Spirit in changing lives and communities in his part of the rain forest. 

How Disciples Become Leaders

Ndinga is a Baka Pygmy from the Central Africa Republic. Two years before, a pastor named Bonane came into his village to distribute clothes and food and to talk to the villagers about the need for their children to have a school to attend. He had a plan to help the village meet a huge need that it had. Ndinga had never imagined that someone would come to his remote village to do something kind like that for their children.
Ndinga approached Pastor Bonane and started asking questions about why he was doing what he was doing. Bonane’s answer was that God loves the Pygmies and wants them to have all these things because He wants what is good for them. So Pastor Bonane was willing to help bring God’s blessings to their village. Ndinga knew that this kind of thing just did not happen in Pgymy villages. 
He decided to learn more about the God Pastor Bonane was talking about, and he asked many kinds of questions that Bonane patiently answered. One week later, Bonane showed Ndinga and others how to experience a Discovery Bible Study in Ndinga’s village. For several weeks, they had meetings during which the villagers heard many stories from the Bible, asked a lot of questions, and shared what they discovered in the Bible with each other. 
In a few weeks, eight people in the group became disciples of Jesus. But several refused, saying that the God Pastor Bonane is talking about is a foreign God. Ndinga and seven others were baptized and continued meeting, hearing more stories, discussing and learning more about the God of the Bible.
Ndinga always tried to find time with Pastor Bonane. He had so many questions! He wanted to learn everything very quickly. And he started sharing what he learned with others in the village, and also in other villages. 
During one of the meetings in his village, he told Pastor Bonane that the day before he had shared some of the stories in another village and someone wanted to meet with him to ask more questions. Pastor Bonane coached him how to help a group of nine people start gathering to hear more stories and ask more questions. Ndinga started facilitating the group discussion under the supervision of Pastor Bonane.
The reality is that Ndinga has never stopped helping people grow as disciples of Jesus, and continues coaching them to reach out to other villages.

The Pygmies of Africa 

The term “Pygmy” is used to describe those people groups where the average height of the male adult is less than 150 centimeters (4’11”). The term Pygmy is considered pejorative and so many of them prefer to be identified by their ethnicity such as Twa, Baka etc.
Most Pygmies are like Ndinga, tropical- forest foragers, and the food they find they consume themselves or trade to neighboring farmers in exchange for cultivated foods. They are scattered in more than 14 countries in Africa, but most of the 984,000 Pygmies live in six Central African countries.
There is so much diversity among these groups that it is impossible to describe a “Pygmy” culture, but historicallythe Pygmies have been marginalized by national governments and in most cases mistreated by neighboring people groups. At the national governmental level Pygmies are sometimes not considered citizens. They are denied identity cards, get evicted from their land and are not entitled to proper health care and education.
Their neighboring tribes typically consider them inferior. In some places, they have a sort of indentured relationship with their neighbors; you can find the Pygmies serving their masters with manual labor, game, honey and other natural resources from the forest.  They are often cheated by not being paid for their labor. 
In addition to the above marginalization and mistreatment, many Pygmy communities were exposed to racial extermination during the Rwanda genocide and in the Congo civil war. In these two instances it is estimated more than twenty thousand Pygmies were killed.
As hunter/gatherers, the forest is very important to their culture and livelihood. Unfortunately, this fundamental element of their identity and sustenance is being destroyed now by farmers and forest exploitation for wood.
According to Musolo W’isuka Kamuha 1 , Pygmies are a challenge to Christian missions because the church (Musola was writing of the church of DRC) has a problem in accepting the Pygmies as fully human beings worthy to be included in the agenda of mission outreach. Thus they have generally remained unreached and unchurched.
According to, the Pygmies include 26 unique people groups with a total population of 984,100. They represent 17 UPGs totaling 788,700 people and three UUPGs totaling 22,400 people. 

How it Started

In 2005 Final Command and New Generations teams had a season of prayer that resulted in a list of 18 difficult and large Muslim people groups to engage in Africa. Later in 2007 one of the leaders insisted on including the Pygmies across Africa in this priority list. 
As a result of that commitment, in 2008 a five-day DMM training was done in Bangui where Thierry, one of the trainees, decided to engage the Pygmies with his disciplemaking team. He recruited two denominations that had also planned to engage this people group and trained their evangelists in the processes. Pastor Bonane was one of those evangelists. What was birthed by Thierry’s resolve and brother Bonane’s passion has been miraculously blessed by God’s favor.
In the last 11 years Thierry’s Pygmy engagements have expanded to six African countries where 2,816 churches have been planted, to the 10th generation of churches planting churches, and 145,755 Christ followers through September 2018. That number is still growing rapidly, and now almost 15% of the total African Pygmy population are Christ followers. 

Kanyabikingi and Nana

Kanyabikingi (pseudonym) is a Pygmy who lives in one of the big towns in East Africa. He once described himself as an atheist who embraced the ideology while attending college in a communist country. 
He worked for an organization that tries to encourage Pygmy communities to send their children to school. The Pygmy communities in that part of the country, unlike most Pygmies who are hunters and gatherers, make their livelihood by making pottery. Therefore, they prefer their children to help them in making pots instead of sending them to school. 
Kanyabikingi’s job has been to go to these communities and encourage the parents to send their children to school. He does his job with passion because he wants to see his people improve their livelihood through education. 
In 2014, in one of the Pygmy communities he frequently visits, Kanyabikingi met a lady named Nana (pseudonym) who was in her mid-fifties. Nana was a Christ follower who had been encouraged by her ministry to make disciples among the Pygmies. She was well-liked by the community because Nana regularly prayed for the sick and helped the poor. People invited her frequently to their homes because when she prays for them they consistently get solutions for many of their problems.
Kanyabikingi observed what Nana was doing and her love for the Pygmies. He wanted to know more about what she was doing and asked to meet her. So Nana invited Kanyabikingi to attend the Discovery Bible Group that was meeting in her house. Kanyabikingi became a regular member of the DBS group. He had many questions, and Nana coached him how to find the answers in the Bible. Eventually, Kanyabikingi became a follower of Jesus, and then began to use his frequent visits to peoples’ houses as an opportunity to share stories from the Bible. Pygmies began to respond to him, and started their own Discovery Bible Groups.   
After one year, 14 churches, three generations and 25 Discovery Bible Studies had been formed in two different Pygmy communities. More than 270 Pygmies had become followers of Christ.
By the end of 2015, the movement that had started in these two communities had already spread to one more Pygmy community and other people groups, resulting in the planting of an additional 58 churches with nine generations, and more than 600 Christ followers. God used a former atheist, a compassionate woman who prayed for people, and two Pygmy communities to catalyze multistreamed and multi-ethnic spiritual momentum.    

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

The Best Workers are the Best Neighbors

The Best Workers are the Best Neighbors

Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt taken from Tom Nelson’s book, The Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing in Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity ©2017 by Tom Nelson.  Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL  60515-1426.
More information about Made to Flourish is available at, or through email at [email protected].

Martin Luther said it well: “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” A primary way God designed us to love our neighbors is for us to do our work well, and from our work to have the capacity to be generous to neighbors in need. When it comes to being a helpful neighbor, a slothful worker faces an uphill climb. On the other hand, the best workers make the best neighbors.

As apprentices of Jesus we’re called to be generous with our time and our talents. We’re called to be generous with acts of kindness and faithful in our prayers for others. We’re commissioned to be generous in sharing the gospel with our neighbors, and we’re also called to be generous with our financial resources, which come from diligent labor and wise financial management. How can we be generous in tangibly caring for our neighbor if we have nothing to be generous with? If we have compassion without capacity, we have human frustration. If we have capacity without compassion, we have human alienation. If we have compassion and capacity, we have human transformation. We have neighborly love.

The Great Commandment challenges us to better connect Sunday to Monday, not only by nurturing compassionate hearts but also by growing in our economic capacity. And economic capacity doesn’t appear out of thin air. It comes from faithful vocational stewardship. The financial margin we need for generosity flows from a lifestyle of wise financial management. Neighborly love requires both compassion and capacity. It requires transformed hearts and transformed habits, deep compassion and faithful stewardship.

If we’re going to narrow the Sunday-to-Monday gap between our faith, our work, and the economic flourishing of our neighbors, we must take tangible steps to love with both greater compassion and increased capacity. But what does this look like?

Know Your Neighbor

First, to love our neighbors we must seek to know our neighbors. Ask yourself:

  • Who are the neighbors in my life?
  • Those I live by?
  • Those I go to school with?
  • Those I work with?
  • What about those society says are not my neighbors?
  • Those who speak a different language?
  • Those who embrace different faiths?
  • Those who live in another part of the city?

Geographic proximity calls for responsibility, but in a globalized world there’s more than geographical proximity; there’s also human proximity.

For many of us the ever-present danger of cultural insularity and isolation is quite real. We can be blinded to the economic difficulties experienced by our neighbors, even in communities minutes away from where we live. I was reminded of this truth when my wife and I, who live in the suburbs of Kansas City, took an extended walk through one of the most under-resourced neighborhoods in our metro area. Walking down Prospect Avenue, dilapidated storefronts and neglected vacant lots border the crumbling sidewalks. Viable businesses are virtually nonexistent. The lack of thriving stores or markets has made this area an urban food desert. Pride of ownership, meaningful work, and economic activity seem to have ground to a halt. The scene is heartbreaking and, unfortunately, not uncommon.

My wife and I have lived in Kansas City for more than 25 years, yet before we intentionally walked through this neighborhood, we had no idea who these neighbors were, how they lived, or what challenges they faced in their neighborhoods. In many ways we had been hauntingly similar to the Jewish priest and Levite who walked past their neighbors in need. For years we not only walked past them, we avoided their neighborhood completely. This needs to change.

If we’re going to embrace neighborly love, we’ll have to take the initiative to move out of the comfort zone of our cultural and geographical insularity and get to know our neighbors as people who, like us, have a unique history, have felt the pain of heartache, harbor unfulfilled dreams, and possess underutilized talents and future aspirations.

Help Your Neighbor

Once we’ve identified our neighbors, we can take tangible steps to help them. The first step will likely require us to increase our capacity to help. Think with me for a moment: How much good could the Samaritan have done if he hadn’t worked hard on Monday? When we think about helping our neighbors, we ought to think first about our own work and the value it creates for others. We should consider how the economic capacity our work produces not only makes possible material provision for our families and ourselves, but also gives opportunity to come alongside the poor and under-resourced.

Scripture speaks a great deal about our responsibility to care for the poor and vulnerable, but how do we do that? Robert Lupton offers insight into the complexities of human impoverishment, reminding us that in spite of our best intentions our philanthropic efforts can yield unintended consequences: “While we are very generous in charitable giving, much of that money is either wasted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help.” Instead of adhering to philanthropic models that dehumanize our neighbors by perpetuating impoverishment, Lupton advocates the cultivation of institutions and relationships that develop economic capacity.

As we seek to help our neighbors, we must remember that both the creation of wealth and the stewardship of economic capacity through diligent work need biblical love and wisdom to guide them. You can’t help your neighbor well if you don’t understand economics well, because human flourishing and economic flourishing go hand in hand.

Do Your Work Well

This means neighborly love is more about how we work than where we live, more about how we use our time and resources than who happens to live next door. While the Samaritan incarnated neighborly love, so did the innkeeper whose year-round business provided an important service for the traveler. Unlike the robbers who perpetrated economic injustice against the Jewish man, the innkeeper worked hard to maintain an enterprise that served others’ needs. God created us as his image-bearers with work in mind. An important aspect of being an image-bearer is to work and to create value by serving others within our collaborative economic system.

Certainly we followers of Jesus are far from perfect, inhabit broken workplaces, and play out our vocational roles within imperfect economic systems. Nevertheless, we must remember that in spite of the less-than-ideal work we might do—and in spite of the less-than-optimum environments of labor we inhabit—we’re called to be agents of redemption, doing good work as an act of worship, while seeking to further the common good. Human work isn’t a solitary enterprise; it’s woven into the fabric of human community’s flourishing design. 

I received an email from a member of my congregation whose company does a good deal of international business. It speaks volumes about neighborly love. Tim is a modern-day Samaritan businessperson, doing good work and loving his neighbors in India. He describes his last 15 years working with a talented international workforce:

What I have come to realize is that my position of influence puts me in a unique position as a Christian. My workers in India are decent, hardworking, college-educated, and desire to live a good life. I pay a fair wage and offer a path to economic freedom. Many on the team are the first generation to graduate from college. They are mostly Hindu and Muslim. During my many visits to India, they’ve told me that my values seem different from many perceptions they have of Americans. I’ve been able to share my faith and values with a group that is willing to listen. My neighbors in India now have a larger stake in a stable world since they are connected to the world economy. Their prosperity trickles down into their community. And hopefully they see a little of the love of Jesus reflected through me.

Yes, the best workers make the best neighbors.

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

24:14 Coalition Update FAQ

Clarifying Some Misconceptions

24:14 Coalition Update FAQ

         1.  24:14? Who are you?

We are not an organization. We are a coalition of like-minded individuals, practitioners and organizations who have made a commitment to a vision of seeing movements in every unreached people and place. Our initial goal is to see effective kingdom movement engagement in every unreached people and place by December 31, 2025. We do this based on four values:

a.  Reaching the unreached in line with Matt. 24:14, that is, to bring the gospel of the kingdom to every unreached people and place.

b. Accomplishing this through “Church-Planting Movements,” involving multiplying disciples, churches, leaders and movements themselves.

c.  Having a wartime sense of urgency to engage every unreached people and place with a movement strategy by the end of 2025.

     d.  Doing these things in collaboration with others.

         2.  Why are you using the name 24:14?

Matt. 24:14 is the cornerstone for this initiative. Jesus promised: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations (ethne), and then the end will come.” Our focus is to participate in seeing the gospel go to every people group on earth. We long to be in the generation that finishes what Jesus began and other faithful workers before us have given their lives to. We know that Jesus waits to return until every people group has had an opportunity to respond to the gospel and become part of His Bride.

3.  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. There is no implication related to a date that the task will be finished. That is God’s responsibility. God determines when movements take off.

         4.  Why do you feel such urgency in moving this forward?

2000 years have passed since Jesus spoke the Great Commission. 2 Pet. 3:12 tells us to “hasten the day of his return.” Ps. 90:12 tells us to number our days. A group of 24:14 founders waited on the Lord and asked if we should set a deadline or not. We felt Him telling us that by setting an urgent deadline, we could make wiser use of our time and make the sacrifices needed to fulfill the vision. 

5.  Are you trying to get all missions organizations to align around your strategy?

No. We recognize that God has called many churches, mission organizations and networks to specialized ministries. The 24:14 Coalition is composed of people and organizations that either have the desire to be or have been successful catalysts of movements, using different strategies. Various organizations and practitioners have unique methods and tools but all of us share many of the same CPM distinctives. These are strategies based on trying to apply in modern contexts patterns of disciple-making and church formation we see in the gospels and the book of Acts.

6.  There have been other attempts to get people to collaborate on finishing the Great Commission. What is different about 24:14?

24:14 builds on these other good initiatives. Some of the previous ones helped the global church reach certain milestones (e.g. adopting people groups). 24:14 is about finishing what others have started by catalyzing movements that can reach entire people groups and places in a sustained manner. The 24:14 coalition is partnering with other networks like Ethne, Finishing the Task, GACX, GCPN, etc. One distinctive is that 24:14 is led by Church-Planting Movement leaders. Another factor is that experience in movements (particularly among the unreached) has increased substantially, resulting in much-improved “best practices.”

7.  What is a “Church-Planting Movement?”

A Church-Planting Movement (CPM) is defined as the multiplication of disciples making disciples and leaders developing leaders, resulting in indigenous churches planting churches which begin to spread rapidly through a people group or population segment. These new disciples and churches begin to transform their communities as the new Body of Christ lives out kingdom values.

When consistent (multiple-stream) 4th generation reproduction of churches occurs, church planting has crossed a threshold to becoming a sustainable movement. While it may take years to begin, once a movement starts, we usually see this 4th generation threshold crossed within three to five years. Increasingly, CPMs are starting new CPMs within other people groups and population segments.

8.  What is your definition of church?

Acts 2:36-47.

While there are a variety of definitions around the world, most of these movements would agree that a core definition of church is what we see the first church being and doing in Acts 2. In fact, many of them would lead a newly baptized group of disciples to study Acts 2 and begin to pray and work out how they can become this type of church. We encourage you to do this exercise with your own church.

These churches go on to study and apply many more aspects of being church from the New Testament. We encourage you to have a definition of church that is no more and no less than the New Testament gives us.

9.  Are there CPMs in the Bible?

Church-Planting Movements is a modern term to describe what has been happening throughout Church history.

Undoubtedly Church-Planting Movements have been around since the first century of the Christian era. You only have to read between the lines to see Church-Planting Movements as the back-story for the rise of Christianity from Christ to Constantine. In his book of Acts, Luke reported that: “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” (Acts 19:10) The Apostle Paul commended the Thessalonians through whom “the Lord’s message…has become known everywhere,” (1 Thess. 1:8) and near the end of his life declared: “there is no more place for me to work in these regions,” (Rom. 15:23) because of his desire “to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.” (Rom. 15:20)1

10.  Is the CPM approach against traditional churches?

God is using all kinds of churches to accomplish His purposes in the world. We are all parts of the Body of Christ and we need to honor each other. We do realize that church history and current global realities make it very clear that the Great Commission cannot be completed using only traditional church models. The amount of resources needed for a traditional Western style church does not allow for the growth needed to exceed population growth, and cultural patterns identified with the Western world are often a poor medium for bringing the gospel to non-Westerners (who constitute most of the world's unreached peoples). The primary push for CPMs is the reaching of those who are not being reached and are not likely to be reached by traditional church patterns. Biblical patterns that are simple and easily reproducible (such as those God is using to bring CPMs) offer the best hope for completing His command to bring Good News to all nations and peoples. So for anyone serious about reaching the unreached in significant numbers, we strongly recommend ministry patterns that aim to catalyze a CPM.

11.  Why do you advocate rapid multiplication? Doesn’t that increase the possibility for heresy?

Actually, heresy is generally less prevalent in movements because of the very interactive nature of discipleship. Heresy is a seed the enemy sows among groups of believers whether they are a part of movements or traditional churches. The question is not whether the enemy will sow such problems but whether we are equipping disciples and churches to guard against false teachings and address them when they arise. Even the New Testament church faced such challenges, but equipping believers to rely on Scripture as their authority and study the Scripture together as the body (as in Acts 17:11) helps guard against creative and eloquent false teachers. Heresy usually comes from influential, dynamic, and persuasive leaders and/or institutions. We avoid and deal with heresy by going back to God’s Word and self-correcting according to God’s Word. The strategies we use to make disciples are very Bible-based. Questions that arise are brought back to the Word of God, in order for God’s Word to be the source for answers, not individuals.

A focus on obedience-based discipleship instead of knowledge-based discipleship also protects against heresy. In other words, disciples are not just committed to gaining knowledge, but the measure of their discipleship is obedience to that knowledge.

12.  Does rapid growth of a movement lead to shallow discipleship?

Shallow discipleship tends to take place when new believers learn that:

  • the main thing expected of them is to attend church meetings once or twice a week.
  • obedience to Scripture is encouraged but not required.
  • the most important teachings from God will be presented to them by a church leader.

             Sadly, these are among the messages many believers around the world receive.

The best way to nurture real discipleship is to train new believers to:

  • interact with God’s Word (the Bible) for themselves and discover (together with other believers) what it says and how it applies to their lives.
  • obey what they believe God is telling them to do through His Word.
  • share the “real situation” of their lives with other followers of Jesus, pray for and encourage one another, and apply the “one anothers” of the NT.
  • share the reality of life in Christ with those who don’t yet know Him.

    These patterns of real discipleship are at the heart of what we see in Church-Planting Movements.

Aren’t movements just a fad?

There have been movements throughout history including in the book of Acts, the Celtic movement led by Patrick, the Moravian movement, the Wesleyan movement, the Welsh revival, etc. This new wave of movements began in 1994, 24 years ago, and is increasing exponentially through the present with over 650 identified movements.

Like the early church, these movements are—to put it in technical terms—”messy.” They are full of humans and human weaknesses and God’s strength despite those weaknesses. If you have other questions or other answers we would be glad to dialogue. You can write us at [email protected]

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Hope for the Nations: Book Review

A Review of Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus' The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution

Hope for the Nations: Book Review

From the Foreword: 

“I’ve been waiting for a book like this for a long time. Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus have brilliantly written a work that is at the same time completely biblical, historical and practical… It should be required reading in every Christian college and seminary, by every relief and mission organization, and by every local church pastor. At Saddleback Church and in all churches participating in the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, this book will become a standard text that we will use to train every mission team we have in 196 countries.

—Rick Warren, Saddleback Church.  Lake Forest, California. Founder, Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan.


Two years from now, in 2021, Niran, his wife and his five children in a rural southwestern Nigerian community will bow together in family worship without aching, empty stomachs.  They will give money at church, dream about a college education for one of their children, and most of all, transcend a subsistence lifestyle for the first time ever. 

Here’s how this could become reality… Nigerian pastoral, government, and business leaders will have spent the summer of 2019 digesting and applying the remarkable ideas in The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution (2013). As they read the text, they learn to cast off ancient practices. For example, after reading chapter 6, these leaders confront their need for moral virtue (i.e., lives free of corruption), which is necessary for success in the marketplace. As they learn in chapter 3 about the benefits of the free market, formerly corrupt officials stop demanding bribes for the registration of land titles. Instead, they promote reforms in the capital city, Abuja, thus making property ownership widely accessible. 

This discussion in the summer of 2019 won’t be easy. False ideas, many rooted in ancient animism, must be confronted. For example, the old idea that there is only so much wealth to go around—“zero sum” thinking—is exposed as a lie in the book’s section on “Cultural Beliefs That Will Encourage Economic Growth.” It is also hard for leaders to acknowledge that they haven’t used their power for the benefit of their people. And until they do, their communities will remain desperately poor (chapter 7). 

Of course, Niran’s pastor will rejoice in 2019 because he and his family don’t have to go to bed with empty stomachs either. You see, Niran and his countrymen learned what government leaders are teaching from chapter 9—that having material wealth should never surpass the desire for spiritual wealth. As a result the offering basket in their church is now full, Sunday after Sunday. Niran and his fellow parishioners finally have an abundance from which to give and fund missionary expansion of the gospel. 

Every mission executive and pastoral trainer who wants the preceding possibility to become reality needs to read, digest, and seriously discuss The Poverty of Nations. This one-of-a-kind handbook is ready-made for those who need a blueprint, a roadmap for turning around struggling societies. Nine chapters are devoted to developing 78 principles (sometimes called steps, factors, or laws) that, if taken, can lead whole nations out of poverty. The authors argue that many, if not all, of these principles have been researched and time-tested in nations around the world. The book, thus, is a prescriptive text for the missional problem solver, not a thoroughgoing academic analysis that aims at description. The book is prescriptive and its scope is national. In other words, its unit of transformation is the nation-state. It is rare among writers in this postmodern era to rise above the level of the tribe (or people group) and yet remain below the level of international institutions. The authors justify this national focus by claiming that “the primary causes of poverty are factors that affect an entire nation” (25). Thirdly, the text is comprehensive. Contrary to various reductionisms, poverty remediation requires simultaneous transformation in three spheres: cultural (social), political, and economic. This insight alone makes the book a valuable treasure, in my opinion. The three spheres are interrelated domains of human existence, culture being the most fundamental of the three. The authors seem to agree, as nearly half of the principles are defined by the (misnamed) heading “nation’s values” (369). 

Recognizing that economic development is essential to escaping the poverty trap, the authors claim their book transcends others by focusing on the “nationwide laws, policies, and cultural values and habits that determine so much of the course of economic development in a nation” (26). Needless to say, the authors are unapologetically committed to free market economics. Research overwhelmingly confirms the effectiveness of the free market model, as opposed to various redistributive schemes in favor with international developmentalists like Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. 

The book’s emphases on sustainability, reproducibility, and non-dependence on Western resources align nicely with missionaries’ church-planting objectives. Pastors should welcome the message that salvation is not merely spiritual, but that many of their congregants are called to undertake entrepreneurial initiatives. Government agents in their congregations will learn to adopt policies which encourage rather than dampen economic development. 

The single greatest fear of many missionaries, I suspect, will be that some of the ideas, if taught, will be viewed as hostile to the political authority of their host countries. Discretion and discernment will be required, because those who hear and take to heart what is taught will be changed. Most governments, of course, don’t like change that threatens their control. A second concern is that some of those who engage the text will take some of its ideas and shear them of their Christian roots while launching reform initiatives. The risk is real (think of the mid-19th century Taiping Rebellion that led to 20 million Chinese deaths), but the wise Christian interculturalist will admit that the gospel carries inherent political implications, as Vishal Mangalwadi explains in his classic text Truth and Social Reform (1989). Shrewd and effective Bible teachers will need to thread this needle while avoiding heresies. A third concern is that readers won’t understand the ideas sufficiently to teach them correctly (seminars will need to be organized). 

Those who use the book with groups as diverse as international students on the one hand, and Venezuela’s Yanomamo on the other, will need to frame their principle-oriented pedagogy so that it takes account of local realities. For example, predictable tensions concerning the superiority of private property ownership over tribal ownership will arise. Educated leaders will need to explain the tremendous wealth development potential of private ownership, while pastors will need to simultaneously teach against the corrupting practice of envy. Ameliorative institutions and mechanisms will be needed to soften the distortions and inequalities of private ownership. On this extremely critical matter, Grudem and Asmus not only offer biblical support for private ownership, but usefully engage authors like Hernando Desoto, Peruvian author of The Mystery of Capital (2003), who makes a strong case that billions of the world’s poor live on valuable property over which they have no legal title. Securing legal title is an essential early step that can then be parlayed for business development loans which are part of the poverty alleviation matrix. 

Do I have cautions over the book? Most certainly. 

First, the text fails to account for the growing impact of the global regulatory environment (fostered by international agencies) and its impact on national policies the authors recommend. 

Second, the book is biblically and theologically thinner than one would expect. (Others can undertake in years to come the task of filling out the theological themes that will ultimately make this everyone’s go-to text on a Christian view of building nations that prosper.) 

A third caution comes from a well-developed fear of utopianisms. While this is a very solutions-oriented text, I caution those who employ it to keep close at hand their doctrine of sin. Humans have massive capacities to prevaricate, corrupt, and otherwise diminish truth in order to make utopian claims that enrich themselves. Others will take these principles and impose them on the untaught. Replacing the gospel of Christ with a utopian gospel based on these principles would be no advance for human civilization; in the end, it would be a dark step back. 

Fourth, the book risks becoming a formula for national improvement, a 78-step surefire restorative for Sick Nations Anonymous. Our neighbors are human beings, not human test tubes waiting for our scientific prescriptions. These principles should be applied with generous helpings of a Christ-centered gospel that announces a Savior who has come to “reconcile to himself all things, whether in heaven or on earth, making peace by the blood of his cross.” In this context the book can be used very effectively, especially with leaders in all sectors of society. 

My last and fifth concern has to do with modernity, social unity, and Christian faith. The authors spend very little time warning that, unless gospel imperatives remain front and center in education, economic flourishing can lead to social diminishment and pathologies (as we have seen in Western countries). The Deuteronomy 8 warning against ignoring God once we become wealthy is as true today as it was thousands of years ago. Alexis de Tocqueville framed his brilliant Democracy in America (1835) around this question: As democratic man becomes established with political and economic freedoms, how will he maintain allegiances to the rest of society? History’s answer in the developed societies of the world is, “Not very well.” 

Asmus and Grudem don’t offer an answer either, nor need they at this early stage. But those engaged in Christian mission and development who wisely employ this text around the world—along with Darrow Miller’s Discipling Nations (2001), Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert’s When Helping Hurts (2014 edition), and Acton Institute’s The Poverty Cure video series (2012)—will need to invest great energy in finding contextualized answers to Tocqueville’s question. Only robust Christian faith will provide the enduring allegiances that offer genuine social stability, harmony, and assistance to those dislocated by free market mechanisms. It will be up to us to utilize various strategies that help the larger society to thrive while simultaneously deploying Asmus and Grudem’s text that empowers individuals. 

We must remember that the larger end that alone makes sense of such endeavors is God’s kingdom, where “they shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit…and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” (Isa. 65: 21-22 ESV) This is a text about human flourishing, and that is what drives Asmus and Grudem. 

Tonight, there is a gaping, yawning emptiness in the seven stomachs in Niran’s family. He trusts Christ, and prays daily that their stomachs will someday be full. After the leaders in his community and his nation read this book, Niran and his family will have abundant reasons to thank the God who has not forsaken the righteous or let his children beg for bread. (Ps. 37:25) 

A Composite List of Factors That Will Enable a Nation to Overcome Poverty

Taken from The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus, © 2013, Appendix: pp. 369-373. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.


A Composite List of Factors That Will Enable a Nation to Overcome Poverty

A. The Nation’s Economic System (details in chapter 4)

  1. The nation has a free-market economy. (131–221)
  2. The nation has widespread private ownership of property. (141–54)
  3. The nation has an easy and quick process for people to gain docu­mented, legally binding ownership of property. (149–54)
  4. The nation maintains a stable currency. (155–58)
  5. The nation has relatively low tax rates. (158–62)
  6. The nation is annually improving its score on an international index of economic freedom. (162)

B. The Nation’s Government (details in chapter 7)

  1. Every person in the nation is equally accountable to the laws (in­cluding wealthy and powerful people). (225–26)
  2. The nation’s courts show no favoritism or bias, but enforce justice impartially. (227)
  3. Bribery and corruption are rare in government offices, and they are quickly punished when discovered. (227–29)
  4. The nation’s government has adequate power to maintain govern­mental stability and to prevent crime. (229–30)
  5. There are adequate limits on the powers of the nation’s government so that personal freedoms are protected. (230–33)
  6. The powers of the government are clearly separated between na­tional, regional, and local levels, and between different branches at each level. (234–36)
  7. The government is accountable to the people through regular, fair, open elections, and through freedom of the press and free access to information about government activities. (236–39)
  8. The government adequately protects citizens against crime. (239–41)
  9. The government adequately protects citizens against epidemics of disease. (241–42)
  10. The nation’s legal system adequately protects people and businesses against violations of contracts. (242–43)
  11. The nation’s legal system adequately protects people and businesses against violations of patents and copyrights. (243–46)
  12. The government effectively protects the nation against foreign in­vasion. (246–48)
  13. The government avoids useless wars of conquest against other na­tions. (248–50)
  14. The nation’s laws protect the country against destruction of its environment. (250–52)
  15. The nation requires universal education of children up to a level where people are able to earn a living and contribute positively to society. (253–56)
  16. The nation’s laws protect and give some economic incentives to stable family structures. (256–57)
  17. The nation’s laws protect freedom of religion for all religious groups and give some benefits to religions generally. (258) 

C. The Nation’s Freedoms (details in chapter 8)

  1. Everyone in the nation has freedom to own property. (263)
  2. Everyone in the nation has freedom to buy and sell goods and ser­vices, so that there are no protected monopolies. (263–64)
  3. Everyone in the nation has freedom to travel and transport goods anywhere within the nation. (264–67)
  4. Everyone in the nation has freedom to relocate anywhere within the nation. (267)
  5. Everyone in the nation has freedom to trade with other countries without dealing with restrictive quotas or tariffs. (267–269)
  6. Everyone in the nation has freedom to start and register a business quickly and inexpensively. (269–271)
  7. Everyone in the nation has freedom from expensive and burden­some government regulations. (271–72)
  8. Everyone in the nation has freedom from demands for bribes. (272–75)
  9. Everyone in the nation has freedom to work in whatever job he or she chooses. (275–77)
  10. Every worker in the nation has freedom to be rewarded for his or her work at a level that motivates good job performance. (277–78)
  11. Every employer has freedom to hire and fire employees based on job performance and changing business cycles. (278–79)
  12. Every employer in the nation has freedom to hire and promote employees based on merit, regardless of family connections or per­sonal relationships. (279–80)
  13. Everyone in the nation has freedom to use the earth’s resources wisely, and particularly to utilize any type of energy resource. (280–84)
  14. Everyone in the nation has freedom to change and adopt newer, more effective means of work and production. (284–85)
  15. Everyone in the nation has freedom to access useful knowledge, inventions, and technological developments. (285–91)
  16. Everyone in the nation has freedom to be educated. (291–92)
  17. Every woman in the nation has the same educational, economic, and political freedoms as men. (292–93)
  18. Everyone in the nation, from every national, religious, racial, and ethnic origin, has the same educational, economic, and political freedoms as those from other backgrounds. (294–97)
  19. Everyone in the nation has freedom to move upward in social and economic status. (297–300)
  20. Everyone in the nation has freedom to become wealthy by legal means. (301–7) 

D. The Nation’s Values (details in chapter 9)

  1. The society in general believes that there is a God who will hold all people accountable for their actions. (318–19)
  2. The society in general believes that God approves of several char­acter traits related to work and productivity. (319–22)
  3. The society in general values truthfulness. (322–24)
  4. The society in general respects private ownership of property. (324–26)
  5. The society in general gives honor to several other moral values. (326–29)
  6. The society in general believes that there are both good and evil in every human heart. (329–30)
  7. The society in general believes that individuals are responsible for their actions. (330–31)
  8. The society in general highly values individual freedom. (331–32)
  9. The society in general opposes discrimination against people on the basis of race, gender, or religion. (332)\
  10. The society in general honors marriage between one man and one woman. (333–34)
  11. The society in general values permanency of marriage and has a low divorce rate. (334–35)
  12. The society in general believes that human beings are more impor­tant than all other creatures on the earth. (335–36)
  13. The society in general believes that the earth is here for the use and benefit of human beings. (336–37)
  14. The society in general believes that economic development is a good thing and shows the excellence of the earth. (337–38)
  15. The society in general believes that the earth’s resources will never be exhausted. (339–40)
  16. The society in general believes that the earth is orderly and subject to rational investigation. (340–41)
  17. The society in general believes that the earth is a place of oppor­tunity. (341)
  18. The society in general believes that time is linear and therefore there is hope for improvement in the lives of human beings and nations. (341–42)
  19. The society in general believes that time is a valuable resource and should be used wisely. (342–43)
  20. The society in general manifests a widespread desire to improve on life, to do better, to innovate, and to become more productive. (343–44)
  21. The society in general is open to change, and people therefore work to solve problems and make things better. (344–45)
  22. The society in general gives honor to productive work. (345–48)
  23. The society in general gives honor to economically productive people, companies, inventions, and careers. (348–50)
  24. The society’s business owners and workers in general view their companies primarily as means of providing customers with things of value, for which they will then be paid according to that value. (350–51)
  25. The society in general places a high value on savings in contrast to spending. (351)
  26. The society in general believes that mutual gains come from volun­tary exchanges, and therefore a business deal is “good” if it brings benefits to both buyer and seller. (351–53)
  27. The society in general values knowledge from any source and makes it widely available. (353–54)
  28. The society in general values a highly trained workforce. (354–55)
  29. The society in general assumes that there must be a rational basis for knowledge and recognized channels for spreading and testing knowledge. (355–56)
  30. The society in general demonstrates a humble willingness to learn from other people, other nations, and members of other religions. (356–57)
  31. The society in general believes that the purpose of government is to serve the nation and bring benefit to the people as a whole. (358–59)
  32. The society in general believes that government should punish evil and promote good. (359)
  33. The society in general values patriotism and reinforces a shared sense of national identity and purpose. (359–64)
  34. The society in general counts family, friends, and joy in life as more important than material wealth. (364–66)
  35. The society in general counts spiritual well-being and a relation­ship with God as more important than material wealth. (366–67)

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Understanding the Remaining Mission Task - updated VIDEO

Understanding the Remaining Mission Task  - updated VIDEO

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

How Cultures Move from Poverty to Prosperity

How Cultures Move from Poverty to Prosperity

At 11:00 am on May 29th, 1953, beekeeper Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on earth. Hillary was a native of mountain-and-glacier-draped New Zealand, but was part of a much larger British expedition led by John Hunt. He was one of ten elite climbers picked for their mountaineering prowess. 

The 1953 expedition established its first base camp in March, eventually reaching its final base at South Col in Nepal, 25,900 feet up. While on the mountain, the team had slowly adapted to the frigid and rarefied air, while waiting for the relative warmth of late spring. 

But they still had over 3,000 feet to go. Even today, a shot at Everest’s summit involves years of preparation, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and many weeks on and around Everest. But no future attempt was as bold as that one in the spring of 1953, for the simple reason that in 1953 it hadn’t been done before. Hillary and Norgay were the first to get to the top and live to tell about it. 

There are other ways up Everest but none were known in 1953 and probably none were as likely to lead to success as Hillary’s basic route. Indeed, in the years since then, thousands of mountaineers have retraced Hillary and Norgay’s steps in their own efforts to reach the top. Along the way, they have set up base camps that were not there before. These make the route easier for future expeditions. We now know, in detail, as Hillary and Norgay did not, the best way up the mountain. 

The cultural path from widespread poverty to widespread prosperity is like that route up Mount Everest. For centuries, most people lived in subsistence poverty, near sea level on the upward path to wealth creation. In the last two centuries, however, more and more cultures have climbed that path from the low-lying flatlands and hills, to the base camps and up to the summit. 

However, many around the world still languish in absolute poverty, even though we know the path to the summit of culture-wide wealth creation. What’s maddening is how many well-meaning people still commend routes that have not simply been untraveled, but rather, well trod to their bitter ends in a cliff or crevasse. 

Surely the better course is to help others to take the same route to the top that we have taken. There are ten major features that allow such cultures to reduce poverty and create wealth. The more of these a culture has, the more likely it is to be prosperous. 

Number 1: Rule of Law

Contrary to the stereotype that a free market is akin to anarchy, the rule of law is a precondition rather than a hindrance to a free market. As Adam Smith saw, the market order needs a system of rules that prods even selfish motives toward socially beneficial outcomes. The butcher, the brewer and the baker may have regard for their own interest, but in a free market their self-interest encourages them, not to steal from or defraud their customers, but to provide beef, beer and bread that others will freely buy.

 Number 2: Limited Government

Widespread economic freedom requires a government strong enough to maintain the rule of law, but limited enough not to trammel the rule of law under its boots. Neither the law of the jungle nor the capricious rule of despots allows a population to prosper. The United States has prospered because the American founders sought to avoid these extremes with checks and balances. Two chambers in the legislative branch, a separate judiciary and executive branch, strictly enumerated powers for the federal government, and individual states all act as a counterweight to each other and to the federal government. 

Number 3: Formal Property System

Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has emphasized the economic importance of a formal titling system, which allows land to become property. He argues that the system by which we represent land allows it to become property

Securely titled property, in turn, changes the habits and attitudes of those who own it and of everyone else, who must respect it. Titled property allows land to become capital, which can be priced, compared and traded for other goods in a market. As property, that land can become collateral for a business loan, or inspiration for a farmer to invest in equipment or plant crops that yield greater profit in the long run but take years rather than months before the first harvest. This system allows land to become a tool for climbing the ladder of economic progress. Much of the success of North America, and failure of South America, can be traced to this factor. 

Number 4: Economic Freedom

If a society has rule of law, limited government, and a robust property and titling system, it creates space where individuals and groups are free to engage in win-win exchanges. The danger at this point is too much government. In advanced societies, champions of the free market rightly criticize government barriers that prevent people from freely trading goods and services, barriers such as tariffs, subsidies, price control, and regulations that incur more costs than benefits. But this we know: The more economic freedom a society enjoys long term, the more prosperity its citizens will enjoy. For years, the Index of Economic Freedom has listed Hong Kong as number one, and North Korea as dead last. That’s a perfect summary of the link between economic freedom and prosperity. 

Number 5: Strong Civil Institutions

Economists have begun to document the economic role of vibrant “mediating institutions” such as the family, churches, private charities and the like, which limit the power of the state. These institutions mediate between individuals, the state and the market. Economists for too long ignored the vital role of these institutions, but they are now confirming common sense. Does anyone doubt the bad economic consequences of broken families, out-of-wedlock births, bad schools and dysfunctional religious and charitable institutions?

 Number 6: Belief in a Meaningful Universe

Everyone doesn’t have to believe in God for a culture to prosper. Still, a number of scholars, such as sociologist Rodney Stark, have pointed out the economic importance of Judeo-Christian assumptions to the emergence  and success of Western economies. And even common sense suggests that if most of a population either languishes in despair or fritters away its time appeasing capricious nature gods, it will be less prosperous than a population that sees its daily labors as part of a larger cosmic drama within a rational, orderly universe. 

Number 7: Right Mores

Prosperity doesn’t require a perfectly virtuous society. If it did, no society would prosper. But economic success does require practical habits and mores that breed economic success. The German sociologist Max Weber argued as much in his Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

His argument has not stood the test of time. Still, his basic insight—that morality and a vibrant economy are connected—has only gotten stronger. The key “commercial virtues” include orientation to the future; belief that progress but not utopia is possible in this life; a willingness to take thoughtful risks and delay gratification (which in turn encourages thrift, saving, and investing); habits of diligence; and respect for the rights and property of others. These mores allow wealth not only to be created, but also encourage people to save and reinvest some wealth— creating more—rather than merely consuming it. 

Number 8: Right Understanding of Wealth

A cluster of basic economic beliefs also encourages wealth creation. They include the belief that wealth can be created and in creative new ways: that free trade is typically win-win; that risk is key to enterprise; that trade-offs are unavoidable in the real world; that the success of others need not come at your expense; and that you can pursue legitimate self-interest and the common good at the same time. 

A good economic education should teach the wealth-creating power of sound economic beliefs. For instance, imagine a world where young people are taught that wealth is acquired by transferring wealth from one person or group to another (burglary, plundering, taxation). Now imagine another world where young people are taught they can create new wealth through diligence, creativity, and enterprise; through ventures that find new ways to serve potential customers in win-win exchanges. Which world do you think will be better off in the long run?

Number 9: Focus on Your Comparative Advantage

A comparative advantage is that thing that you can do best compared to your live alternatives. Depending on history and geography, not just individuals but cultures have different comparative advantages. In food, for instance, it’s no surprise that Norwegians focus on fish while Central Americans focus on bananas. Though your comparative advantage might be an immaterial asset, such as a good education or a sunny disposition, it often involves access to fertile soil, abundant sunlight, or an oil field. 

Number 10: Work Hard

The most obvious way to create wealth is to apply muscle to increase the natural creative capacities of field, herd, and factory. Even Karl Marx got this one right. But hard work is much more likely to create large amounts of wealth in a setting that includes the other nine ingredients. There was a lot more wealth-creating potential to Steve Jobs in the US than to Steve Jobs in Haiti. 

Again, this should be common sense. Which country is likely to do better in the long run, the one with a hard-working population, or the otherwise identical one with a population of lazy freeloaders? Obviously, the former. 

With the partial exception of number nine, the top ten ingredients for wealth creation all involve immaterial rather than material realities. Indeed, the more advanced an economy, the more important the immaterial and intangible becomes. Ironically, many people of faith believe in an immaterial realm and yet fail to grasp the immaterial source of wealth creation. Instead, they accept the same materialistic assumptions held by many of their non-religious counterparts. These religious people want a solution to third-world poverty, but they support counterproductive wealth-transfer schemes and miss the preconditions for long-term wealth creation. 

This needs to change. If we really want to fix global poverty, then we should seek ways to spread the top ten ingredients for wealth creation, and not the many popular, well-meaning plans that fail or do more harm than good. 

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Manna and the Land: A Question of Timing

Manna and the Land: A Question of Timing

Sixbert lived on only $60 each month. With his family of nine, he struggled to afford rent and to provide for the needs of his family. After missing several rent payments, Sixbert, his wife, and their seven children were evicted from their home and became homeless. 

As a husband and father myself, I can’t imagine looking into the eyes of my wife and kids in that moment, feeling completely helpless, alone and uncertain. 

These feelings of fear and isolation are not uncommon for millions of men and women around the globe. Around one billion people live on less than $1.25 per day. Two billion people do not have access to a safe place to save and borrow money. And over three billion men, women and children have not heard the gospel. 

Many people living in the trenches of poverty have shared that food is unreliable and shelter is inadequate. That education is insufficient. That life can be isolating and scary. 

I sometimes wonder if that’s how Israel felt when God freed them from slavery in Egypt. Yes, life in Egypt was terribly hard. But life in the wilderness was terrifying. Like many of our neighbors, God’s people in the wilderness felt instability and hunger and isolation.

 A Question of Timing

The Jewish people were freed from generations of captivity in Egypt, but they escaped not into the Promised Land, but into the barren wilderness. 

Even though God performed miracle after miracle, the people of Israel did what humans are prone to do: they forgot. They forgot God’s provision and complained that though they were no longer slaves, they would die in the wilderness. 

“Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” Exod. 16:3 (ESV). 

Now, it’s easy to beat Israel up for their tone. I know I have. Their persistent fearfulness seems equally maddening and confounding. Hadn’t God just deployed legions of frogs and locusts, turned river water into blood, and turned day to night? You don’t think He can keep you fed? 

But if we look on them more compassionately, as God absolutely did, we see them differently. These freed slaves were desperately afraid. They were isolated and homeless. They were facing a terrifying new world. 

And God responds in love, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you… and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord.” (Exod. 16:4, 6) 

Manna from Heaven

Only a few verses later, we read that God comes through on His promise: “And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground… Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” (Exod. 16:14, 31)

Manna was unexplainable to those who first tasted it—and even more mysterious to read about today. But one thing we do know is this provision of manna was not dependent upon the efforts or attitudes of God’s people. Manna was a daily reminder of God’s unconditional love. No matter how little the Israelites trusted, no matter how far their hearts wandered, the manna kept showing up. Every morning. For decades. 

But one day the manna stopped. Why? What caused God’s daily provision of bread to stay in heaven? 

“The people of Israel ate the manna forty years until they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan.” (Exod. 16:35) 

It wasn’t random. Nor was there was a weaning period where God provided a half-serving of manna. After providing manna six days per week for 2,080 consecutive weeks, the manna dried up. In the Book of Joshua, we read, “And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.” (Josh. 5:12) The day they tasted the fruit of the Promised Land, the manna ceased. 

Did God’s compassion stop when he stopped providing the manna? 

Manna and the Land

In short, I believe the answer is no. God’s compassion did not stop; it changed. God’s two approaches to loving his people—and a model for how we should love our neighbors—are manna and land.

Manna                              Land

Food                                        Fields

Received & Harvested            Owned & Cultivated

Time-bound                             Ongoing

Manna provided food for the people of Israel while they were homeless and in-transition from Egypt to the Promised Land. God provided it and the people harvested it. It’s easier to see God’s generosity when considering manna. It’s an evident miracle. Still, the Promised Land was equally miraculous. 

Moses challenged the people of Israel to consider this when they enter the Promised Land: “The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. And He brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Deut. 26:1, 8–9) 

God did give His people manna. But He also gave His people land, and with the land, an invitation to put their hands to work and cultivate it, to provide for what their families needed. This, not the manna, was what God’s people longed for and prayed for—to have a place and a livelihood to call their own. And God invites us to do the same, showing us how His people should take care of our most vulnerable neighbors. 

Manna, the Land, and Us

What does “manna and Promised Land” compassion look like today?

Remember Sixbert? After his family was evicted, Sixbert joined a savings group through his local church and saved small amounts of money each week. He eventually saved up enough money to buy two piglets and started a business raising and selling pigs. Now, seven years in, Sixbert has six full-time employees and 200 pigs, along with goats, cows, sheep and hens.

Whereas before Sixbert felt isolated, he now lives and thrives in community with others. He even serves as a deacon in his church and as the president of his savings group. When he sees others struggling in his community, he gives them some of his piglets and teaches members how to raise them. He has a dream to see poverty completely eradicated in his village.

Manna                                                  Land

Short-term housing (for Sixbert)                     Savings account, pigs (for Sixbert)
(from Sixbert)                                                  Farming training (from Sixbert)

Notice how Sixbert was the recipient of both manna and land… and how he extends manna and land to others. In God’s economy, we are both recipients and givers of both manna and land.

Sixbert remembers the love he received and he recognizes his success is not his own. He said, “the main reason I wish to give to the community in this way, by sharing a pig with my neighbors, is to help each of them move out of poverty.”

In John 6, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. ftis is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:47-51)

We believe Jesus is the perfect manna—the provision freely given from heaven for the life of the world.

In Practice

How have you received and given manna in your life?

When have you been nourished by undeserved, unmerited grace from God and from others? And, how have you extended this compassion to those around you?

How have you received and given the Promised Land in your life?

When have you experienced the joy of being able to use your gifts and abilities to work and to care for those around you? And, how have you given that same opportunity to others?

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Ending Poverty: Three Hopeful Signs

Could we see the end of extreme poverty in our lifetime?

Ending Poverty: Three Hopeful Signs
Just two hundred years ago, almost the entire world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Today, less than 10 percent do. In the past forty years alone, the percent of people living in extreme poverty has dropped by over 30 percentage points.
In my years of work in Christ-centered economic development, I have had the privilege of visiting places ranging from the small towns in Haiti to remote villages in northern Afghanistan. And I have come to realize that while poverty runs rampant in our world, the situation in so many communities is unquestionably getting better. The depth and complexities of poverty are not hopeless. The Church is on the move.

Love in Action

Jesus said that the world would know that we are His followers in how we love (John 13:35). And throughout His ministry, we consistently see His steadfast love and care for some of the most marginalized in society: widows, orphans, foreigners and those living in poverty.
For generations, the Church has recognized the importance of following in Christ’s footsteps to love and care for those on the margins. The Church has run toward those in poverty—showing the world what it stands for and not only what it stands against. Today, there are growing numbers of people and organizations committed to bringing the love of Christ to individuals around the world and empowering whole communities to flourish.
Here are three hopeful trends as the Church addresses global poverty:

1. Stand for local leaders.

Our culture is obsessed with superheroes. In ten years, Marvel movies alone have totaled over $17 billion in the box office worldwide. In elementary school, our son loved his Spiderman outfit, and now our youngest proudly wears his Black Panther costume. We celebrate the heroes who risk their lives for the sake of others. Regardless of age, gender, or social class, heroes—both in real-life and on the screen—captivate our attention.
Unfortunately, this hero-centric perspective translated into our early poverty alleviation efforts as well. 
When the Church first came onto the scene of global poverty, we were foreigners trying to play the part of the hero. We handed out blankets, donated clothes, painted buildings, and gave out food. Even with good intentions, our short-term-missions trips too often fell prey to paternalistic attitudes as we saw ourselves as the hero of the story.
But in the last few years, there has been a growing realization and repentance for massively underestimating the capacity and competency of the global Church. We’ve seen how infinitely more capable the global team is to engage in long-term effective poverty alleviation. We’ve seen the brilliant leadership expertise of people like Christine Baingana—CEO of Urwego Bank, the microfinance institution I worked for when I first arrived in Rwanda. (There is simply no question that she is an infinitely more capable and equipped leader of Urwego than I ever was or will be!) We’ve seen the incredible knowledge of Jean de Dieu Bizimana—HOPE International’s country director in Burundi—and the passion he has to serve the underserved in his community. We celebrate the fathers and mothers, businesspeople and church leaders effecting change in their neighborhoods. We celebrate the expertise and passion of our brothers and sisters around the world who seek to love and serve their communities with excellence. (Since they know their culture, their resources, and their people better than we do, they tend to do the work better anyway.) And we celebrate because the Church is recognizing its identity as a global Church. We need each other in this mission!

2. Recognize assets.

Although we might have looked at a person or community in poverty through a needs-based lens in the past, recently we have changed our focus. Instead of seeing “not enough,” we see an individual’s assets, skills, and dreams. Instead of seeing “the poor,” we see a mother with a sewing machine, a passion to make clothes, and a firm determination to provide for her children. Instead of seeing a “needy person,” we see a father with a small field, a knack for farming, and a dream to build a home for his family. We see people as the solution.
The greatest Gift-Giver of all time entrusted each of us with unique gifts, skills and abilities. In Rom. 12:6, Paul writes that “we have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” What a mistake it would be if we didn’t recognize them in ourselves and in others!
While in Burundi several months ago, I had the privilege of meeting a construction team who, at the time, didn’t have nails for their upcoming project. So, they began to make nails by hand by using small scraps of metal. This is but one example of the millions of men and women around the world who, every day, inspire us with their hard work, innovation and resourcefulness.
We celebrate the shift from seeing needs to seeing capacity. We celebrate the resourcefulness, diligence and creativity of our brothers and sisters around the world to transform their communities. We have much to learn from them.

3. Champion employment.

It’s been said that “the world’s best welfare program is a job.” And today, there is a growing cadre of organizations who understand the importance of work.
Jobs for Life is just one of these organizations. With a mission to equip the Church to prepare individuals for meaningful work, Jobs for Life wants to see all people flourish in their work and relationships.
They understand that work provides dignity, value, and purpose. Work verifies our identity, creates communities, produces jobs, and renews cities. Today, many are without work or underemployed, and this robs them of their God-given dignity and purpose.
In their new initiative Flip the List, Jobs for Life seeks to transform the way the American Church fights poverty. Right now, the Church pushes back against poverty by handing out food (62 percent), providing housing (55 percent), and giving away clothing (22 percent). Only two percent of the Church’s poverty-alleviation efforts are geared towards employment.
Jobs for Life’s goal of “flipping the list” is to move employment from the bottom to the top of the list. When the Church focuses on meaningful employment first, provision for food, housing, and clothing will naturally follow as families increase their capacity. Flip the List empowers men and women to provide for themselves— replacing a cycle of poverty with one of dignity. We celebrate that an increasing number of organizations and efforts have been addressing poverty in a dignity-affirming, God-honoring, and jobs-centered way.

New Approach, Lasting Change

The Church is beginning to combat extreme poverty in a more complete way. It focuses on long-term systemic change and lasting employment patterns, not short-term quick fixes. It emphasizes the importance of partnerships and local champions, not external “saviors” descending to solve the problems of those considered less fortunate. The hope of the gospel is integrated through tangible acts of compassion that have long-term reach.
This is a movement where discipleship, job creation, training, and financial services are building on local relationships to empower communities to break free from poverty.
“Poverty does not belong in a civilized human society,” Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus said, “Its proper place is in a museum.” As the Church continues to stand up for local leaders, identify skills and assets, and champion employment-based solutions, we may realize that the end of extreme poverty is much closer than we think.


Defeating Poverty: What Doesn’t Work

This article first appeared in the July/August 2011 edition of Mission Frontiers under the title:

A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out

In the decade following the collapse of communism, churches operating in post-Soviet Ukraine could once again practice their faith openly and freely. Yet they faced great need: With the economy in shambles, laypeople struggled to find work and provide for their families. Some churches in the United States stepped forward to meet the needs of their Ukrainian brothers and sisters and rebuild their church communities, but they quickly came to realize that good intentions don’t always translate to sustainable results.
A hand up, not a handout
An active member of a church based in Lancaster, PA, Jeff Rutt, founder of HOPE International, joined several delegations his church sent to Ukraine to deliver shipments of food, clothing, and other supplies to a sister church in Zaporozhye, Ukraine.
On one of these trips, a Ukrainian pastor pulled Jeff aside and described the effect of the aid on his congregation: Although he was grateful for the help, the shipments  had  depressed local initiative, as many vendors within the church and community could no longer compete with the free shipments of supplies. Instead of inspiring a spirit of generosity and giving, the shipments had created a sense of dependency on foreign aid.
He said, “We need a hand up, not a handout.”
After realizing the need for solutions that came from within the community and emphasized the God-given skills and dignity of the local congregation, Jeff began offering small loans and business training to church members, and HOPE International—a Christ-centered microfinance network now serving over 300,000 clients in 15 countries around the world—was born.

Symptoms and solutions

Rutt and his fellow church members had good intentions from the start, but in overlooking some key symptoms of poverty, they limited the effectiveness of their ministry. In the West, poverty is almost exclusively viewed as a lack of material wealth, characterized by insufficient food, money, clean water, and medicine. When over 60,000 people living in material poverty were asked to define poverty, however, they did not use such straightforward terms. Researchers Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett of The Chalmers Center for Economic Development said, “They tend to describe their condition in far more psychological and social terms. Poor people typically talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness.” While Jeff and his church were meeting material needs, their assistance actually intensified the psychological and social symptoms of poverty.
If the symptoms of poverty are not as clear-cut as they seem, then neither are the solutions. An accurate diagnosis  precedes an effective course of treatment, not only in medicine but also  in  economic  development. Before we attempt to solve the problem of poverty, we must first understand three factors that contribute to the problem: 

1. Belief that solutions come externally:

In Haiti, a HOPE staff member met another who said she had no desire to fix her dilapidated home. The worse her home looked, the better her chances of receiving foreign aid—both to fix her home and to send her children to school. Abraham Lincoln once said, “You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence. You cannot help people permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”
In 2005, I traveled to Afghanistan with HOPE International and saw firsthand the damage done when we decide to help those in poverty by “doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.” After decades of war, even remote regions within Afghanistan had grown accustomed to outside aid. When a group of donors, pastors, development practitioners, and I were helicoptered into a remote Afghan village, we were paraded around by elders who showed us their “needs.” They led us to a community center with minor water damage to the roof. Outside this building, an elder with a full beard waved his finger at me saying, “You must fix this!” He— like many in the village who were eager to show us their needs— had become dependent on outside aid, a dependency handicapping their long-term initiative to break the cycle of poverty. We must recognize the inherent gifts and talents of the poor to begin to transform communities and the landscape of poverty from within.

2. Ignoring the benefits of business:

According to Bill Easterly in The White Man’s Burden, since1970, Africa has received over $3 trillion in aid, but many of the countries’ growth have stagnated—even plummeted. Despite trillions in aid, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa still rank at the bottom of poverty indexes such as the World Bank’s Doing Business report and the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI). Good intentions too often ignore what has historically been shown to create wealth: job creation. Since the 1980s, extreme global poverty has been reduced from 52 percent to 10 percent, primarily through commerce and industry created in countries like China and Brazil, which are now dominating world markets. Business is revolutionizing the world to end extreme global poverty as none of our collective outside efforts and aid have achieved. As the global church seeks to alleviate spiritual and physical poverty, we often overlook one of our greatest resources—our business people. Although there has been an uneasy alliance between business laypeople and church leadership, business is vital in poverty alleviation efforts.

3. Disconnecting proclamation from demonstration:

Poverty is not only physical but also innately spiritual. Historically, the Church has lost credibility and impact when it propagated the lie that we could disconnect our proclamation of the Gospel from our demonstration of the Gospel. It’s time to end this deadly dichotomy. We cannot address hopelessness and brokenness without rejoining our words and our deeds. Only the Good News of Jesus Christ’s redemptive work on the cross coupled with acts of compassion brings hope for restoration of relationships—with God, with one another, with ourselves.  Journalist and self-proclaimed atheist Matthew Parris wrote in The Times of London that—as much as he hated to admit it—he saw the importance of Christianity in development work. Growing up in Africa and returning years later, he saw that aid and relief work alone weren’t enough. Christianity brought about true heart change: “The [African] Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world—a directness in their dealings with others—that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.” In his article, Parris shares how the truths that Christianity teaches—that mankind has inherent worth and dignity—are the key difference in escaping poverty. 
Like Matthew Parris, I came to my own realization in Africa that if microfinance institutions (MFIs) and aid work are only meeting material needs, they may increase income, but they won’t catalyze life transformation. While managing a microfinance institution in Rwanda, I met Florian, who later became my guard, gardener and friend; however, sometime later, I discovered that when I left my house, he would enter to steal money and other items from my guests, using both the money he earned and stole for alcohol. Through this experience, I recognized that Florian’s increased income wasn’t changing him: Unless his heart was changed, his increased income did not benefit him.
Contrasting Florian is the story of Milán Tapia, an entrepreneur, accomplished seamstress and activist in the Dominican Republic. Born in el campo, or in the country, she knew material poverty as a child. Through a small business loan from Esperanza International, HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic, she began a sewing business making school uniforms; successful, she employed several workers, but she testifies her life didn’t change until she was introduced to Jesus Christ by her loan officer. Transformed by the love of Jesus, Milán was ready to make a difference in her community: With her business profits, she founded Tu Hogar Cristiano (Your Christian Home), a school for disadvantaged children in her community. Today 400 children attend Milán’s school. One woman’s changed heart and economic situation resulted in hundreds of changed lives in one Dominican community.

A true fact

The Church today is poised to make a lasting impact on global poverty and we need a big vision for what God might do in our lifetime. Already, we have seen tremendous developments in the areas of health care and poverty reduction. Polio decreased by 99 percent, from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to 483 cases in 2001; in the last eight years, the number of children dying of measles has decreased by 78 percent; and in the past six years, malaria rates have been cut in half. As poverty has been cut in half in the last 20 years—in large part through job creation and business—we see that it is possible to alleviate global poverty as never before. The question is whether or not the global Church today will believe that it is possible to see significant physical and spiritual restoration—and then work passionately, wisely and selflessly to see Thy Kingdom come.

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

No Time to Spare

Bible Translation for Language Groups

No Time to Spare

On a late fall day in 2014, a group of 13 local Christian men and women gathered in South Asia to attempt something that never had been done before. Working together in teams of three and four, they accomplished the unthinkable: the translation of nearly half the New Testament in two weeks. 

The collaborative new translation method, known as MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation), had been developed by Wycliffe Associates. MAST supports the ownership of the Bible translation process by local churches within a language group so they no longer need to rely on foreign missionaries to translate the Scriptures for them. Wycliffe Associates serves the local church, providing the training and technology. 


“MAST emerged because people without Scripture, people with no hope of receiving Scripture from others, decided that in good conscience before God they could no longer wait,” said Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. “Existing Bible translation strategies were not meeting their needs, so they took action.” 

The MAST methodology was born after a group of Bible scholars, pastors, teachers, missionaries, and Wycliffe Associates staff members came together to develop a process that could be employed by mother-tongue translators, working under the authority of the local church, to accelerate Bible translation for their own language communities. 

“There are two things that really stand out to me from having seen MAST over the last few years empower the church in their ownership,” said Dan Kramer, Director of Education Services at Wycliffe Associates. “The first is hearing repeatedly that by trusting people in their language and allowing the church to do their job in Bible translation, MAST has given minority langua