A Bold Spiritual Conversation

A Beyond advocate, Emma, was challenged by the course she took through her college about five years ago taught by two senior staff at Beyond. During this course she was challenged with the idea that Jesus’ followers should live their lives in an openly spiritual way. Through her conversations with various Beyond team members, she learned to be more transparent about her faith.

This transparency radically transformed the way she engaged with the lost. Instead of “evangelism” feeling like a task to be done, it began to flow out of her in a natural way. Over the years Emma has seen many lost people engage with Scripture for the first time because they knew she was an openly spiritual person, and they wanted what she had!

Another Beyond advocate who is currently being mentored by Emma shares a simple story of how that transparency unfolded a thousand miles away from her college town and touched the lives of a group of women in North Africa.

“Recently I was able to talk with my friend, “Sarah”, who moved to North Africa not long ago. She spoke about the spiritual difficulty she and her team were facing whenever they shared the gospel. Hoping to encourage her, I shared how using simple statements, questions, and stories can show others that we are “spiritual people”. I encouraged her to use a short statement in natural conversation to indicate that she was a spiritual person.

A few hours later, an excited Sarah called me back to tell me what God had just done. She and her teammate, “Jen”, were in the market buying fruit when they saw a woman with three young children running around her. As she observed them, Sarah commented to the mother, “Children are such a blessing from God!” “Wow, no one ever pays attention to me. That is so kind!” the woman said in surprise. Before long she invited Sarah and Jen to her home.

Arriving at the woman’s apartment later that day, they were surprised to find that this young mother had invited all the women from the building to meet Sarah and Jen. The apartment was packed! As they were cooking and talking with the women, their gracious host approached them and said, “Please do what you came here to do.” When Sarah responded in confusion the woman told her that she knew Sarah was a spiritual person and wanted to talk to them about spiritual things.

Grateful for the obvious opportunity from the Lord, Sarah shared the story of the bleeding woman in Luke 8. When she finished, the entire room was in tears. Although their understanding of Jesus is just beginning, they glimpsed Christ’s compassion and power in the story Sarah shared.”

Please pray that all believers would be willing to boldly and openly share their faith by starting spiritual conversations and that the Holy Spirit would lead and guide us to persons of peace.

Missions in a Dangerous World: Missiological Myths vs. Biblical Patterns

Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that life will get worse with all kinds of natural and human disasters. People will be handed over to be persecuted, hated by all ethne, and even put to death–because of Jesus. Many will turn away from faith in Jesus and betray and hate each other. Due to this overall increase in wickedness, the love of most believers will grow cold. Not a nice picture, eh!?

He then says, “AND in the middle of all of that mess” (rather than saying BUT or “in spite of”), two related things will happen: 1) he/she who stands firm to the end will be saved; and 2) this Good News of the kingdom will be shared publically in the whole world as a witness/testimony to all ethne, and then the end will come!

In other words, all people groups will be given the “Jesus option” before the end comes in the middle of all the turmoil, not in spite of it.

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

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

Myth 1: The safest place in the world is in the center of God’s will.
Many interpret this to mean physical safety: that, 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 was in the complete center of God’s will – and He was killed. In fact, He knew he would be killed and He risked His life willingly. See 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 where Paul and his team were under pressure beyond what they could endure, despaired to the point they felt like their death sentence had been passed – but in that terrible situation, learned to depend on God.

“Let’s be real. Suffering for Jesus will cause real pain, grief, despair, injustice tragedy, etc. Let’s be “real-er.” All is worth it when we see reproducing disciples arise.”

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

Biblical Pattern—Being bold witnesses even when watched by the authorities: People already know who we are and are watching us – so we might as well be wisely public. We want to be wise (and not get persecuted for being stupid), but we must not allow the powers of this world to convince us we must lie so low! No one who is so careful has been known to catalyze a movement to make disciples.

We are told “when (not if) we are called before … the authorities” we should not worry about how to defend ourselves or what to say because the Spirit will teach us at that time what to say! (Luke 12:11-12).

Not only are we to continue to share under the threat of death, we are to rejoice when we are found worthy to be disgraced for Jesus. In Acts 5:27-29: “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!'”

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. And did they stop!? Not a bit. They never stopped teaching. They taught day by day. They did it publically in the temple courts and household to household. 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 that they must be prepared for suffering

Biblical Pattern—Modeling willingness to suffer for Jesus is essential: We are rightly concerned when groups we help start do not multiply. Often, a reason given is that everyone in the culture is suspicious of others and also hesitant to make disciples. Could another reason be that we are not modeling a willingness to risk arrest and suffering for the sake of the Gospel?

Let’s be willing and bold to risk in genuine humility: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Myth 4: We will not be able to launch a movement unless we live in the culture.

Biblical Pattern–Mission Catalysts must be willing to be on the move: While it is valuable to live in and among our focus people, God often calls for His apostles (another term for movement catalysts) to be in an area for a while, stay in contact, but keep moving. Paul and his team were only in a key province about two years (Acts 19:10) and then were led to keep moving. Many “non-residential” missionaries (a pioneering term for what we might now call movement catalysts) have been used of God to catalyze movements from nearby cultures or locations.

The Power of the Simple Story . . .

The Gospel is unstoppable and uncontainable: like a river, it flows despite obstacles and barriers. It penetrates the hard-to-reach places, seeping in because the spreading of the Gospel has nothing to do with man and EVERYTHING to do with God. In this story from the field, our team in South Asia give us a glimpse of how the Gospel continues to spread despite persecution and resistance.

Soma sent us a couple of voice messages last week. One was a recording he took of a conversation he had had with a leader who has been with us almost since the beginning. This man was part of the second group we ever trained. Only two men from that group applied, but–oh, what fruit they have borne! So many generations!

At some point this year, this brother was forced to leave his home. The Hindu radicals in his village simply ran him out. Here’s a brief summary of that conversation between Soma and the leader:

Radical Hindu groups are forcing their way into Christian homes, searching for Bibles. They threaten the people when they find something. They also bring cameras with them and take photos of the Christians in the homes. Discovery Bible Study is proving to be really powerful because it is so simple. But, we must continue to keep it simple. People must just learn the Stories, then the method gets passed along. People must memorize the Stories, instead of carrying a Bible. [In other words, the whole thing must be done orally or with speakers, not with actual Bibles.] When these radical groups find no Bibles, they treat the people better. How great it is to simply discuss a Story, even without a Bible!

I did not hear defeat in their voices. They were just stating the facts while declaring that the Work is continuing/will continue. Hallelujah! It’s a precious thing to realize illiterate followers of Jesus know more Scripture than we do. They’re memorizing the Stories because they have to! We are also praying about how to get more audio speakers (hand held devices with select scriptures and story sets) distributed. Historically, we’ve paid for Bibles and audio speakers from the same fund. Right now, that fund has dropped to the lowest it’s ever been. We’re not sure what that means. Are we to stop buying Bibles because owning one causes trouble for people? Having a speaker in their homes seems to be more innocuous. So, is it time for us to raise more funds to purchase as many speakers as we can? We invite you to pray with us for this.

Join us in prayer for these innovative and resourceful leaders. Pray that we will be able to raise funds to buy more speakers and pray that like a mighty, unstoppable river, the Good News of the Gospel will continue to flow despite the opposition and persecution.

Hope in the Midst of Disaster

A Kairos moment- a Sovereign God-ordained opportune moment for a window of time which provides crossroads moments for His glory to be demonstrated and declared among the peoples.

Between July 29th and August 12th, our workers in Indonesia walked through earthquakes of 6.4, 7.0, 6.2, 7.0 magnitude.

Unprecedented? Yes.

Unexpected? Not when we have prayed and labored for Disciple Making Movements in this part of the world since the early 1990’s.  A Kairos moment? In the hours and days since the earthquake struck, our teams have reported walking through many Kairos moments, here are a few:

  • “Mrs. Reina, you and your husband have been coming to visit our family for many years. And yet, this time, as you bring medical clinics, trauma counseling, and material supplies, we see something different. Others have come to help our flattened homes in the village. They look, shake their heads, and say, ‘Too bad.’ But you and your friends come, and it is like you bring hope which shows that you feel what we feel and you suffer this with us.”
  • “Do you remember me?” one of the villagers asked. “I was the little preemie whom you prayed for healing in Jesus’ name 17 years ago.” (Our team on the field is facilitating a Discovery Bible Study with her household and friends as she discovers the reality of the God who rescued her.)
  • Sri and her husband have lived in their tarp evacuation home since the first 7.0 magnitude crushed their home. After having walked their family through the trauma debrief process, our team offered to pray for them in Isa Al Masih’s name. The next day, God answered that prayer…Sa’ul had been hired. There would be a source of income, for now. Sri reflected, “We feel so cared for by you both. Why would you even take time to spend time with us?”
  • A team of mural artists was drawing murals of their cities rising up from the ruin of the earthquakes. When asked by one of our team members what the paintings represented. “Hope,” they said. “It is our cry for a source of hope.” Pray that the Lord continues to work in the hearts of those who have lost so much . . .

People here continue to build their lives despite the ruins that surround them. They are hungry for hope. Pray that we don’t miss the opportunities to guide and direct them to the one who gives us eternal Hope.

For the next few months, as our team helps with medical care and lessons on how to cope with trauma, please pray that Jesus would be the focus and that people would experience the joy of loving and knowing Him in the midst of their suffering.

Even Though Sharing the Gospel was Hard at First

The following testimony from one of our newest missionaries was shared with our training department last week. Savannah shares about how she came to be interested in disciple making movements and why she chose to go with Beyond.  “Growing up in a Christian home, I heard and believed the gospel from a young age.  But, shyness and fear prevented me from making a lot of friends and speaking up in groups.

In college, I felt convicted by God to share the gospel with people who were far away from Him, but this was really hard for me because I wouldn’t naturally reach out to people I didn’t know.  Then, a friend reminded me that God loves me no matter what, even if I struggled with fear or if none of the people I talked to received the gospel.  That was so freeing!  I felt like a new person.

During college, I went on two summer mission trips; one to Bangladesh and one to China.  After returning from the second trip, I was looking for other people with a heart for the nations.  While searching online, I clicked on a small group at my church.  It turned out to be the Launch Global group: a year-long training for aspiring missionaries to make disciples.  I learned how to make disciples, and helped lead groups the following two years.  Today, I still keep in touch with women serving in Asia, South America and the Arab world that I discipled through that experience.

As God nudged me that I, myself needed to go as a missionary, BEYOND was a natural choice for me for several reasons.  First, I knew Kent and Erika, BEYOND’s president and his wife, from attending church with them before I went to college.  Second, BEYOND’s vision for launching movements of disciples among unreached people groups resonated with my own heart.   Additionally, the collective wisdom from experience of BEYOND’s members and their willingness to help me in my journey to the nations attracted me to join.  I’m excited to serve with BEYOND among an unreached people group in Asia.

Please keep Savannah in your prayers as she adjusts to living in another country and culture. Pray that the Lord will go before her, that He will give her favor, that He will bring persons of peace to her and create opportunities to share His great love.