Do We Do What We Say We Believe?

In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, self-isolating has caused many to reconsider what church really is. With fresh eyes, we see that church is not about the building or a certain set of programs. Church is the community of Jesus’ followers.

We all agree Jesus commanded us, his followers, to make disciples – but have we actually changed our behavior to align with that calling? 

Many would agree that every believer can study God’s Word and hear directly from God. Yet globally, most churches still have Bible studies led by one main expert – such as a trained pastor or Sunday school teacher using a lesson written by a Bible expert. People sit and listen. They may briefly interact with some questions at the end.

In John 6:45, Jesus tells us that all [God’s people] will be taught by God. In movements, churches are groups of people focused on listening to God’s Word — not someone else’s thoughts about God’s Word All share God-given insights. Everyone commits to obey in the coming week whatever God asks. 

Last year, BEYOND’s president, Kent Parks, was in East Thailand. He joined Steve, BEYOND’s Mekong strategy leader, at a four-hour service. The atmosphere of worship, love, and obedience was tangible. “Every single one,” Kent reports, “from young to old, male or female, participated fully as they reviewed the previous week’s Bible study and discussed the new passage. They sang praises. They prayed. They laughed. They fellowshipped. They celebrated the Lord’s Supper. They supported each other.”

As they reviewed the previous week’s biblical passage, a 16-year-old girl sitting three seats from Kent opened up an accounting ledger. Obviously assigned by the group, she asked each person: Last week, you said God told you to obey the Scripture by doing __ (and she read each person’s recorded commitment). Did you do what God asked you to do?” One by one, each person reported what they had or had not done.

As they discussed the new Bible passage, she wrote each person’s new “obedience commitment” for the coming week in the ledger. What wonderful accountability to God and each other!

Recently, five Thai church leaders from another province visited this church. They returned home and totally revamped their church services to this simple, participatory, accountable style. They added a weekly outing to share the gospel in their community. They changed their behavior to be consistent with their belief.

At BEYONDwe believe every disciple can and must make other disciples who obey. We equip people to be vibrant disciple-makers who reproduce as they love and obey God! 

*pseudonyms use

An Update on Covid-19 Crisis Giving

Sanjay and John are fruitful disciple makers in North India. When their country went into complete lockdown due to COVID-19, they knew the effects on the poor could be devastating. They couldn’t sit by and do nothing. Like Jesus’ first followers in Acts 4:32-34, they didn’t want to leave any “needy people” among them. They and some other disciples pooled their resources and put together food packages containing items such as rice, lentils, and oil. They delivered them to house churches in need. They also shared the believers’ need with their BEYOND partners, Ethan and Nicole, and asked for prayer.

Ethan and Nicole, inspired by Sanjay and John’s love for their neighbors and application of Acts 4, wrote to friends and family back home three weeks ago, asking if they wanted to help the churches in the movement. Many gave generously and continue to do so. Ethan and Nicole ensure the money gets to Sanjay and John, who, in turn, distribute funds to area leaders, who buy food and distribute it to the needy house churches in their areas. In the midst of all this, another pressing need has surfaced: water.

During the second week of lockdown, an area leader brought food to a local family. The couple lives in a one-room hut on a dirt lane in a small village. The husband is blind in one eye, and the wife recently fell ill. They had no food and no way to get it. Since the wife became sick, no one in the village was allowing her to get water anymore. They were grateful for the food, but they were also thirsty. They asked if the leader could help them get water.

This leader called Sanjay and John to ask if food funds could be applied to the installation of a hand pump for this family. It would benefit them, but also the other families on their small lane who had no water. Sanjay and John asked Ethan and Nicole if there was enough money. Three days later, the hand pump was installed. The family and their neighbors, fellow members of the Body of Christ, now have food to eat and water to drink.

Lockdown is not over yet. But, instead of starvation and death for the churches, the lockdown has become an opportunity for God’s Body to care for its own. It’s as if 2 Cor. 9:7-14 has come alive:

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure . . .. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poorTheir good deeds will be remembered forever.”

 For God is the One who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, He will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers . . . will be met, AND they will joyfully express their thanks to God . . . AND they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. (NLT)

Nicole summarized the joy they all feel: “God allowed us to meet the need we knew about: food and a need we didn’t even know existed: water. To date, literally thousands of house churches have received food stores to last them through the currently stated end of lockdown. The household described above and others have had wells dug and hand pumps installed. All because a few weeks ago, simple disciples of Jesus had eyes to see and ears to hear the needs surrounding them. They just asked God how they could follow the example set in Acts 4. And then they obeyed.” 

*pseudonyms used

Don’t Hoard, Share the Food . . .

“This is the kind of fasting I want: . . . Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless . . .. Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” –  Isaiah 58:7-8, 10

News about COVID-19 is bleak. The virus is in virtually every country. The numbers of those infected and dead continue to rise. Many of us in the U.S. are entering our sixth week of quarantine. We have exhausted our self-entertaining options and are dealing with personal struggles. Even as we cope with these daily stresses, we should keep in mind the horrific situation multitudes around the world are facing.  As you heard last week, many people around the world are daily wage earners. Each day they don’t work is a day they don’t eat. 

 But . . . 

God’s people in one North India movement are mobilizing to help those hit hardest by shelter-in-place restrictions. Below is a translation of a voice message received from *Sanjay, a national movement leader and Beyond teammate:

. . .We give thanks to Jesus Christ for today’s work!  We left our house this morning at 7:00 because we had set a long journey for ourselves.

. . .We made 133 food parcels to give away. Each pack contained 10kg rice, 10kg wheat flour, 2kg sugar, tea, spices (coriander, turmeric, chili), 1l oil, 2kg lentils, and salt. We were able to take these rations to each place we visited. 

We are very happy because God helped us with all this travel. It’s very hard to travel these days due to the coronavirus lockdown, but even so, we were able to be out all day without getting stopped by the police . . .. We were able to distribute food in four locations. All these people are so very poor. There are more than 70-80 house churches [families] in these four areas. As we hand out these food parcels, we encourage those receiving them to share with their neighbors . . .

Tomorrow, more such visits are planned closer to town, but *John and I will not go because other house church leaders have volunteered to distribute rations.

We thank the Lord Jesus for all the work that happened today. We also give God great praise for the prayers you pray and the help you give.

Then this dear brother in Christ expressed his concern for all of us! We have seen the news about coronavirus in the US. There are so many cases there. How is everyone with our team and all those associated with you? Are they OK? We are worried for them and feel concern for all who care for us. Please let us know if anyone gets ill. We are praying for all of you.”

The beauty of this story is that these same leaders who are distributing food parcels to the starving don’t have very much themselves but share with others out of their own lack. Join us in praying for the 50,000 house churches in the North India Movement. Pray they will continue to wisely yet boldly apply Isaiah 58 to their lives. Pray that God would protect them as they obey, and that God’s Kingdom would greatly advance in these days.

*pseudonyms used

The Quiet Guy Disappeared

In 2018, Sanjay and John, national partners of BEYOND’s South Asian field leaders, conducted a series of disciple-making trainings in Northern India. One of the participants was a man named Satish. He was a quiet person. He listened intently to the discussions but didn’t say much. He was not the kind of man that many people noticed. 

The trainings occurred monthly. After eight or nine months, Satish disappeared. Sanjay and John didn’t know why, but knew that this happens sometimes. People return to their home state or move to find work.

Then, in early 2019, Satish suddenly reappeared at a training event. And he had a testimony to share. He had indeed been home (he is from one of the poorest states in India), but not for work. He had gone home to share with his people all he had learned in the Bible through Sanjay and John’s trainings. In all his years as a Christian, no one had ever told him that, as a disciple of Jesus, Matthew 28 was his to obey. He had never heard that making disciples of Jesus is not only for paid professionals. 

Satish had been so overjoyed to learn this truth that he’d decided to go home and share the good news with his family and neighbors. He couldn’t believe it, however, when no one seemed interested in listening. He even asked one pastor, “Who will lead your church if you die suddenly? What will happen to your work?” The man had no answer. Did no one care that Jesus’ commands are for all of us — not just a few? 

Then Satish met Krish. He was thrilled when Krish wanted to hear more. Soon, the two men were partnering together. Krish is a truck driver. He and Satish began traveling through their district village by village, proclaiming the Kingdom (Luke 10) as they went. They began to see fruit. Along the way, Satish learned Krish’s story (read Krish’s story here). Read Krish’s miraculous story

To date, Satish and Krish have had the privilege of seeing churches birthed in three different districts in their home state. Those churches are birthing new churches. In one area, they have already reproduced to the fifth generation! 

Disciples are formed through obedience, and we make disciples by teaching them to obey Christ. What is a disciple? Is there a difference between converts and disciples? Join us on March 19th for our free, online Nugget training titled “What are we Reproducing: Converts or Disciples?” 

*pseudonyms used

The Goal of Every Trip is Simple: Discipleship

Journeys into the Tazig region of the Tibetan Himalayas are purposeful. The ultimate goal of every trip is simple: discipleship. The Tazig team disciples people to Christ. This means that non-believers are in a discipleship process even before they choose to follow Christ. This process has many facets. The team evangelizes as they share Christ with people who have never heard of him. They follow up with those who are not yet believers but are being drawn (discipled) to Christ, and they disciple current believers and leaders. 

As they meet with people, the team looks for opportunities to share a testimony or a story from Scripture. One unique opportunity arose with their teammate *Pema’s younger brother. On their previous trip, Pema told his whole family that he was a believer. He shared his testimony and why he chose to follow Christ. While they weren’t enthusiastic about him becoming a follower of Jesus, they did not reject him. The whole team was excited for the opportunities Pema would have to share with his family. 

When they arrived in Pema’s village, the team was well-received by his family, especially by Pema’s brother Rinchen and his wife. They took care of them, fed them, and had them practically swimming in tea! For two days, Pema shared more of the gospel message with his brother and sister-in-law. 

*Rinchen and his family’s discipleship is just beginning. Just before Christmas, Rinchen traveled to spend time with Pema. He heard the Christmas story several times and began a discovery Bible study with his brother. Unfortunately, Rinchen’s trip was cut short, and they were not able to get through the whole set of Scriptures. Please pray that the truth planted in Rinchen’s heart will take root, that opportunity for further discipleship will not be long in coming, and that Pema’s whole family would be saved and become the first family from their valley to follow Christ together.

*pseudonyms used

“I Look Them in the Eyes and Pray . . .”

Hannah* is in lockdown in the Muslim nation in which she lives. Just like us, COVID-19 has her cooped up for much of the week. From the first day of the nation’s lockdown, however, Hannah has felt the Spirit leading her to intentionally engage with the shopkeepers and restaurant people she encounters when she goes out.

“I specifically ask how they are doing,” Hannah reports. “I ask if they are feeling fearful or stressed, then I pray for them or bless them right away. So far, every single shopkeeper and restaurant worker I’ve talked with has expressed a lot of fear and stress. For some, it’s fear for their livelihood as their businesses suffer while rent and expenses haven’t gone down. For most, it’s the fear of getting sick. In a time when we are supposed to stay home and away from others, they are the ones interacting with the greatest number of people every day. They are afraid of bringing the virus home to their families.

“I look them in the eyes, and I pray for them. ‘Father God, protect this woman who is serving her community every single day in this scary time and protect her family. Please keep them healthy and give her the strength to serve her community.’ Sometimes I pray a verse over them; Psalms 34:6 and 46:1 cover a wide range of fears. Other times I bless them: ‘Father God, bless this man and his whole family with your peace. Provide them with everything they need and give them your joy instead of fear.’

“After I pray for them or bless them, they seem relieved. Someone sees them, sees their anxiety and fear, sees that they are risking not only their own health but also their family’s health in order to serve the community. They are so thankful to have someone pray for them. My prayer is that the Lord will turn their relief and gratitude into a desire to know Him.”

We, your BEYOND team, would love to have the privilege of pray with you during this time. Please reach out to us at pray@beyond.org or call us toll-free at 888-847-6950.

*pseudonyms used