The Fruit Vendors Loved Talking About Prophet Stories

Karly was studying Luke 10 with a group of believers in a heavily Islamic nation. They concluded that, as disciples of Jesus, they should be following Jesus’ instructions in the passage. Without bringing everything they might need, they should go out two by two into new places. They should talk to random people to see what God was already doing or would do among them. If invited to stay, they should be ready to bring the blessings of the Kingdom upon those willing to receive them. 

Though it wasn’t a new idea for Karly, she had to confess that it still didn’t sound fun to her. She would rather read a book about church planting strategy. Or write a book about it. Or pray for others to do it. Or teach people to do it. Or… lots of other things. But Karly knew that would be disobedience, and she chose to obey. 

She and her roommate went out and soon got invited to sit down and talk with the owners of a fruit stand. The young ladies ate fresh coconut as the owners demonstrated how to make a local fruit salad. They talked for almost two hours. The fruit vendors loved talking about prophet stories and invited the young ladies to come back and study more from the Bible.

When Karly’s group gathered again, each pair shared a story similar to Karly’s. They didn’t really want to follow the instructions in Luke 10, but they did anyway, and God faithfully led them to various people open to hearing about the gospel. God reminded them of the blessing of obedience.

Inaccuracy, Exaggeration, and Deception

Over 1,035 Church Planting Movements (rapidly multiplying groups that surpass four generations of church planting in multiple streams) have been documented. Together, they comprise over 74 million believers in more than 4.3 million churches. When people hear this, they often ask: “How are they counted? Are those numbers credible?”

 

To start with, why do movements count at all? First, movements emphasize growth, and they want to see if they are growing. Second, counting can highlight problems (identified by a lack of growth) that need to be addressed. Third, they want to know if they are making progress in reaching the lost. Fourth, some movements use this counting for reports to partners for prayer, projects, and funding. In general, three methods are used for surveying movement numbers. Let’s briefly look at them and their counterparts in surveying American churches.

 

Method 1:  Some movements or pre-movements are small enough that all groups, leaders, and even members can be known and documented by a handful of people on a spreadsheet. This is similar in practice to the “membership rolls” of smaller US denominations.

 

Method 2:  Some movements are too large to list everyone. Individual streams, however, can be small enough to do so. The streams add together their numbers to derive totals for the whole movement. This process is similar to the way large US denominations (with churches divided into districts) count their numbers. 

 

Method 3:  Some movements, organized in the millions, are equivalent to any national denomination. Because of their size, they have the resources to take a regular census. A research team physically visits most leaders and completes a survey, gathering quantitative and qualitative data. This results in numbers that are accurate, precise, and frequently updated. 

Are the counts reliable? To answer that, we need to consider the various reasons why someone might look at a number and respond, “That’s got to be wrong!”

  • Mistakes of definition: Misunderstandings can happen when a number or definition is not explained. As with all research involving numbers, it is critical to know the definitions.

  • Accuracy, precision, and rounding: A number can be truthful and accurate yet imprecise. 15 million and 15,203,368 are both accurate and truthful; one is simply rounded. Constant changes make a number that is both accurate and precise nearly impossible.

  • Exaggeration: Actually, movements often intentionally undercountby not reporting less adequately researched streams, or by reducing the total number by a certain percentage. 

  • Deception: To avoid this danger, reports from less visible movements are checked for confirmation by varied outsiders, multiple reports over the years, and reports from other nearby movements.

 


In conclusion, movements count their numbers in the same way that most American denominations do, and the numbers are equally credible. All glory to God for the way he is growing his Church around the world!

This article was originally published in Mission Frontiers, read the full article here

When Did We See You Hungry and Feed You?

Beyond’s South Asia team has received hundreds of photos and videos from various movement leaders expressing their great appreciation for your generous giving to the COVID-19 relief fund. On their behalf, we’d like to thank you for your generosity. Thousands have been provided with food and several communities received wells for much-needed access to water. Your generosity has also provided medical help for many who were sick but, due to the lockdown, unable to earn money to pay for needed medicines. These relief funds even helped a few families rebuild their homes after Cyclone Amphan struck in May.

With your help, thousands of people have been blessed. 

We want you to hear directly from our partner Sanjay about the spiritual impact your giving has had. Below is a translation of one of his recent messages: 

I am sure that in these days thousands of people (many hundreds of families) . . . have started Bible studies in their homes . . . across nine states, including [a new state that opened to us during the lockdown]. Because of [the ration distributions], new Discovery Bible Studies have started . . .. Because we gave food to so many, all those people were able to see the work of…(the Kingdom). Our leaders (distributing rations) were met with astonished faces and people saying, “The Indian government doesn’t care for us or send us help, but you care for the poor.” They want to know more. Everyone is giving thanks to Jesus for the food (including many who don’t know anything about Him yet). They are ready to come to the Father through Jesus. I hope to get a real number of how many Bible studies have started since lockdown, how many have been baptized, and how many churches have been birthed out of these Bible studies. This report will not be about how many groups we leaders were able to start, but how much . . . (fruit came) . . . because of this Covid Relief effort (and how much work God did as we all simply obeyed His command to care for the poor and needy).

So many people are taking baptism these days. They are so joyful. They were concerned about not having food to eat, and now they take baptism, now they have the words of Jesus. I still have faith we will achieve the goal of 60,000 new churches birthed this year. God is our very present help.

We continue to accept donations toward this effort, as the lockdown is still in place, and rations are still being distributed. 

Most importantly, though, movement leaders are planning systematic follow-up in households and communities where God has opened doors through this relief effort. They are returning and spending time discipling the new families. By discipling whole families, followers of Jesus from an established movement can see new movements birthed in new regions and among previously unreached people groups!  Interested in Discipling Groups and Whole Communities? Sign up for our upcoming Nugget Training

These new discipling efforts require finances that go beyond their own capacity, particularly in this season.  

*pseudonym

Obedience So Grandmother Can Hear

As *YouLin and *Amy greeted one another and sat down, YouLin said excitedly, “Thank God I’ve had the opportunity to spend more time with my grandmother recently. I’ve been following up on what I told you I wanted to obey from our Bible discussion two weeks ago.” 

Previously, the women had read Luke 2:1-20, and YouLin had been impacted by the fact that, after the angels told the shepherds about Jesus, the shepherds hurried to find him. Then, upon seeing Him, they actively spread the news while glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard. In response to this story, YouLin’s obedience commitment was to make haste to share the Word of God with her grandmother and to openly praise God in her presence.

While her grandmother feels more comfortable using the local dialect, YouLin learned almost all she knows about God’s Word in the official language. She considered how to do what she felt God leading her to do. Amy mentioned that videos are available online that tell God’s stories in the local dialect. YouLin prayed, and the Holy Spirit led her to a YouTube channel containing stories from God’s Word in her grandmother’s dialect. 

The next challenge was to break the ice and share the stories in a way that wouldn’t seem like she was imposing them on her grandmother. God orchestrated an opportunity one morning as YouLin prayed and prepared her grandmother’s breakfast. The television was showing a depressing news report, and YouLin’s grandmother asked her to change the channel. Flipping through the channels, YouLin paused on a man telling a Bible story in her grandmother’s dialect. The grandmother’s eyes brightened, and she listened intently. After all, who doesn’t love a story — especially one in their own heart language? 

Afterward, YouLin asked her grandmother if she liked the story. She said she did, especially the compassion of the God in the story. She wanted to hear more! YouLin has since found a phone app that allows her to play Bible story videos through her grandmother’s TV. 

Give thanks for God’s creative answer to prayer and for YouLin’s persistence to obediently follow His promptings. Pray for this grandmother and others like her to receive Jesus with an open heart and become his follower, even in her 80s.

*pseudonym

He Taught a Communist Rebel to Study the Bible

Two years ago, Ethan and Nicole* led an introductory disciple-making training in the Philippines with 14 seminary-trained pastors. Honestly, they had doubts about the outcome. Would traditional, denominational pastors be willing to go outside the walls of their church, outside the walls of their own traditions, in order to obey Jesus’ command to go (not invite)? 

Sure enough, months later, they’d barely heard a word from any of the participants. Then, nearly a year after the training, Jacob, one of the pastors, contacted Ethan. “I am mentoring a group of young pastors in Manila,” he wrote. ”Would you and Nicole spend a few days with us, doing what you did last year?”

After praying together, they decided Ethan would hold the training with Alex, a BEYOND colleague who lives in the Philippines. After the training, Alex could coach those wanting to apply what they’d studied. 

Since then, Ethan has occasionally wondered if anyone was applying the training and, if so, how it was going. In May, he received an encouraging email from Jacob.

“Three months ago, “Pastor G” taught a former Communist rebel how to study the Bible in his home with his family. He has been doing this for several weeks. Last week, the rebel’s son became severely sick, to the point of death. The father remembered the story of the woman who touched Jesus and the story of Jairus’ daughter. At his son’s death bed, he prayed, “Lord, we surrender our son to you if this (his death) is your will, but can you please heal my son as you have done for this woman and for Jairus’ daughter? 

His son immediately sat up and asked for water!

Thank you for this life-changing experience (the training and coaching). Today, our group has 45 non-Christian families studying the Bible in their homes.

Alex adds that since March, when the COVID-19 lockdown started, Pastor G’s church has transformed into eleven house churches, and it is still growing! They have many more people involved in these house churches than they had in their “building” church before the lockdown.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.” Jacob and these pastors are discovering the joy and fruitfulness of simple obedience to Jesus. The Lord is building his church among the nations (the ethnic groups) of the earth! “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him” (Ps. 22:27). Hallelujah! 

*pseudonym