Passion for God, Compassion for People

By Shodankeh Johnson

Practical demonstrations of God’s love play an integral role in Church Planting Movements. They serve as entry points for the good news and as fruits of kingdom transformation in people’s lives and communities.

Access ministries are one of the pillars of New Harvest Ministries (NHM). Since New Harvest began, we have shown God’s compassion, made disciples, and planted churches in more than 4,000 communities in 12 countries. These compassionate engagements have been catalytic in shaping hundreds of thousands of new disciples, and more than ten thousand new Christian leaders.

Compassion is an essential Kingdom value found in the DNA of every Disciple Making Movement. We have dozens of different access ministries. Each one advances God’s kingdom in Africa. Most are not expensive, but with God’s help, they make a great impact. We partner with local people in every ministry. They often provide leadership, labor and materials— things present in the community that can help meet needs.

Heroic Compassion
New Harvest serves many countries from our headquarters in Sierra Leone. When Ebola struck in 2014, we could not stay in safe places disengaged from the disaster all around us. The crisis hit many Muslim villages especially hard, as their burial rites caused the epidemic to explode. Suddenly, because of Ebola, people could not even touch dying parents or children. In that context, several New Harvest leaders volunteered in the most hazardous places. Some survived, but several lost their lives serving others — mostly Muslims.

One Muslim chief was discouraged by people trying to escape his quarantined village. He was amazed at seeing Christians coming to serve. He privately prayed: “God, if you save me from this, if you save my family, I want us all to be like these people who show us love and bring us food.” The chief and his family did survive, and he kept his promise. Memorizing passages from the Bible, he began to share in the mosque where he had been an elder. A church was birthed in that village, and the chief continues going from village to village, sharing the good news of God’s love.

Discovering Felt Needs, Engaging Lostness
For NHM, access ministries begin with assessing the felt needs of a community. When we complete a needs assessment, the partnership with the community must develop mutual respect and trust. After a while, the relationship leads to story-telling and Discovery Bible Studies (DBS). Access ministries let them see the love of Christ and powerfully touch their hearts.

The On-Ramp to Kingdom Movements
Prayer is the foundation for everything we do. So once an assessment is done, our intercessors begin to pray for:

  • open doors and open hearts 
  • the selection of project leaders
  • open hands by locals
  • a supernatural move of God
  • the leading of the Spirit
  • God to provide needed resources

All our prayer centers know the communities being served. They fast and pray for each of them. And God always opens the right door, at the right time, with the right provision.

Prayer is the most powerful and effective access ministry. We are convinced beyond any doubt that strategic fasting and prayer consistently leads to the defeat of dark powers. Sometimes praying for the sick opens wide a door for access. Through persistent prayer we have seen hostile communities opened, unlikely Persons of Peace identified, and whole families saved. All glory goes to the Father who hears and answers prayer.

Prayer undergirds everything we do. I tell people that the three most important elements of access ministries are: first—prayer, second prayer, and third prayer.

Every Project Makes Our King Famous
We do whatever it takes to get the gospel to people so Christ receives glory. Our work is never about us. It is about Him. We make Him known with a strategic focus on unreached people groups.

Agricultural Team
Our first access ministry was agriculture. In places where farming is critical, agriculture becomes a great gateway to serve people. Most farming is subsistence farming, mainly for family consumption. Often no seed is saved for the next planting. This led us to develop seed banks for farmers. 

We trained nine agriculturists who are also trained church planters. These agriculturists/disciple makers educate the farmers. Their training and mentoring led to relationships that resulted in DBS groups, baptisms and eventually churches. Today many farmers have become followers of Christ.

Education Team
When education is an obvious need, our intercessors take this need to God in prayer. While we are praying, we engage the community to discover what resources they have. We find out what they can provide to meet their own need. Often the community will supply land, a community building, or construction materials to build a temporary structure.

We usually encourage the community to pay part of the teacher’s salary. The teacher is fully certified, and he or she is also a veteran disciple maker or church planter. Schools start with a few benches, pencils or pens, a box of chalk, and a chalkboard. The school may start under a tree, in a community center, or in an old house. We start slowly and grow the school academically and spiritually.

When a Person of Peace opens his or her home, it becomes the launching pad for DBS meetings and later a church. We have launched over 100 primary schools, most of which are now owned by the community.

From this simple program, God has also raised up 12 secondary schools, two trade technical schools, and Every Nation College. This college has an accredited School of Business and School of Theology. Contrary to what some might expect, Disciple Making Movements also need strong seminaries.

Medical, Dental, Hygiene
When we identify a health need, we send in teams of well-qualified medical practitioners with medicines and equipment. All our team members are strong disciple makers and skilled in facilitating the DBS process. Many are skilled church planters as well. While the team treats patients, they also look for a Person of Peace. If they don’t discover one on their first visit, they make a second visit. Once they discover a Person of Peace, he or she serves as the bridge and future host for the DBS. If they don’t find a Person of Peace, the team will go to a different community, while still praying for an open door into the previous one.

Ten church planters have been well trained, equipped as dentists. They are accredited by health authorities to do mobile dental extractions and fillings. One of them also doubles as an optometrist. He checks eyesight and dispenses suitable glasses. He does this at cost, to keep the process going and to avoid dependency. Other health team members provide training on hygiene, breast feeding, nutrition, child vaccines, and prenatal care for pregnant women.

A Most Unusual Access Ministry
We do all of this in a Christ-like manner, seeking to make God’s kingdom visible. God moves and makes His presence known. This often starts with one family or an unlikely community leader.

One large community in southern Sierra Leone had been very difficult for us to enter. They were extremely hostile toward Christians. Christians found it difficult even to enter that place. So we prayed. But time passed, and none of our strategies worked.

Then something happened! Young men were becoming ill and dying in that town. It was found that their infections were related to the fact that the village never circumcised their boys. As I prayed, the Lord convicted me that this was finally our open door to serve this town.

We gathered a volunteer medical team and supplies and went to the community. We asked if they would let us help them. The town leaders agreed. The first day, they circumcised more than 300 young men.

In the following days, as the men recovered, we had the opportunity to begin Discovery Bible Groups. We saw great response, and soon Kingdom multiplication began happening with churches being planted! Within a few years, a place where Christians could not enter was transformed into a place where God’s glory shone brightly. The compassion of God’s people, the power of much prayer, and the transforming Word of God changed everything.

Planting Churches
About 90% of our attempted access ministries have led to a church. Very often one engagement results in several churches planted. As we revisit communities we hear many testimonies of individual, family, and community transformations. Compassion for people, making God famous

This article was used with permission and first published in Mission Frontiers.

About the Author: Shodankeh Johnson is the team leader of New Harvest Global Ministries, based in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He is an integral part of New Generations involved in training, coaching, mentoring and prayer mobilization in different places in Africa and worldwide. He has been an active DMM practitioner for more than 15 years. He is a key leader in the 24:14 coalition in African and globally.

The Great Commission: Not a Job for Experts Only

“How are you doing at making disciples? Are you teaching them to obey what Jesus commanded?” 

These questions were asked of Phillip’s group as they participated in a Phase One Disciple-making movement training, and they really challenged him. 

“If I answer truthfully, I don’t know how I am doing at making disciples. I work at a Christian missions organization. I volunteer at my church. I spend time with my Christian friends. These are all good things, but they don’t leave much room for connecting with lost people.”

Far too often we place the responsibility for obeying the Great Commission on professionals. We believe it is for them to do. We illustrate this belief when we say things like: “I am just not gifted in evangelism.” Or, “I don’t know enough about the Bible.” Or, “I don’t want to offend anyone.” All excuses are just excuses.

Phillip says, “I am thankful for the Phase One training, because it shows me how to be open about my faith. If the task remaining was left only to Christian ‘professionals,’ Christianity would soon fade away.”

Beyond’s Phase One program helps everyday, ordinary Christians begin living out their faith openly and effectively. Our goal is to equip believers to be confident and competent in making disciples wherever they are. That way, if the Lord calls them to other nations, they will have already learned biblical principles of making multiplying disciples in their own culture.  Thus they will be all the more ready to learn  how to make disciples in the new cross-cultural setting  where they will serve.

Study It Yourself :)

Alan was asked to lead an existing Bible study group. He humbly declined saying, “I can’t be your leader. But I can teach you how to study the Bible yourselves using the Discovery Bible Study (DBS) method. Then the Holy Spirit will be your teacher.” The group really wanted a teacher, but they finally agreed to learn the Discovery Bible Study method.

Soon they had learned to ask discovery questions and feed themselves from the Word. They even enjoyed it! Before leaving for the states for a few months, Alan taught them how to become disciples who produce disciples, that reproduce disciples. 

When he returned, Alan met once with the group but then heard nothing more from them. He later learned they had found someone to teach them the Bible. While this isn’t bad, Alan knew that relying on someone else would not help them reproduce disciples.

Then one day, Alan received this message from one of the group members: “I have good news. The way you shared with me to discover the Bible is very popular in my church. People say those (DBS) questions make them think carefully. I am going to lead a few times more. Then they can start leading this way. Thank you very much for sharing such a treasure with me!”

Pray the Father grows a disciple-making movement through His faithful disciples.

*pseudonyms

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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
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“They Liked This Better Version of Me!”

God’s word has the power to change people’s lives, even without the input of an “expert” or an invitation to “church.” 

Here is Prakesh’s story:

Life was not peaceful. I was cruel. My children did not want a relationship with me. Then one day, I was walking along the road when I heard a loud story (like a radio) coming from a nearby house. I stopped to listen. It was about miracles. When the story finished, I asked the people there, “What are you listening to?” 

They looked at me and asked, “Who are you?!” 

I told them I wanted to know about the story. Could they give it to me? 

They said, “Yes, you may have a copy,” and they gave me a speaker with stories on it. I took it home. 

I used to drink every night, and do other bad things. But that night, I did not drink. I stayed home and listened to the stories. My family was happy that I did not drink. They liked this better version of me. The next day, again, I did not go out drinking but stayed home and listened to the stories. The third day, the same. 

After three days of this, my wife said, “I am seeing a change in you. You are not bad, like before.” I told her I didn’t understand it myself, but that when I listened to the stories, I had no desire to do (bad) things. 

My wife asked, “Can we all listen to the stories?” And so we did.

My whole household changed. The neighbors noticed. One of them asked my children, “What’s going on in your home? Your father doesn’t do bad things like before.” 

They replied, “Uncle, our father has changed. We listen to stories, and he does not do bad things.” 

“Is there truly something that can change your father?” 

“Uncle, you can also come and listen.” 

He went home and got his whole family. Together we listened to Proverbs on the speaker. When I turned off the speaker, he said, “These are great! I’d like a copy of the stories, also.” 

I replied, “I only have one copy, but I can play the stories for both of our families.” 

So now, every evening, 30-35 people meet to listen to Bible stories in this village in North India. A mentor is helping them take their first steps of faith, and a baptism service is planned. Pray that from this early fruit a disciple-making movement will grow.

*pseudonyms

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The Story of Movements and the Spread of the Gospel

By Steve Addison

Luke begins the book of Acts by telling us that what Jesus began to do and teach, he now continues to do through his disciples empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Luke’s story of the early church is the story of the dynamic Word of the gospel that grows, spreads, and multiplies resulting in new disciples and new churches. We get to the end of Acts and yet the story doesn’t end. Paul is under house arrest awaiting trial; meanwhile the unstoppable Word continues to spread throughout the world. Luke’s meaning is clear: the story continues through his readers who have the Word, the Spirit and the mandate to make disciples and plant churches.

Throughout church history we see this pattern continue: the Word going out through ordinary people, disciples and churches multiplying. While the Roman Empire was collapsing, God was calling a young man named Patrick. He lived in Roman Britain but was kidnapped and sold into slavery by Irish raiders. Alone and desperate he cried out to God who rescued him. He went on to form the Celtic missionary movement that was responsible for evangelizing and planting approximately 700 churches throughout Ireland first and then much of Europe over the next several centuries.

Two hundred years after the Reformation, Protestants still had no plan or strategy to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. That was until God used a young Austrian nobleman to transform a bickering band of religious refugees. In 1722 Count Nikolaus Zinzendorf opened his estate to persecuted religious dissenters. Through his Christ-like leadership and the power of the Holy Spirit, they were transformed into the first Protestant missionary movement, known as the Moravians.

Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann were the first missionaries sent out by the Moravians. They became the founders of the Christian movement among the slaves of the West Indies. For the next 50 years the Moravians worked alone, before any other Christian missionary arrived. By then the Moravians had baptized 13,000 converts and planted churches on the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, and St. Kitts.

Within twenty years Moravian missionaries were in the Arctic among the Inuit, in southern Africa, among the Native Americans of North America, and in Suriname, Ceylon, China, India, and Persia. In the next 150 years, over 2,000 Moravians volunteered to serve overseas. They went to the most remote, unfavorable, and neglected areas. This was something new in the expansion of Christianity: an entire Christian community—families as well as singles—devoted to world missions.

When the American War of Independence broke out in 1776, most English Methodist ministers returned home. They left behind six hundred members and a young English missionary named Francis Asbury who was a disciple of John Wesley.

Asbury had left school before he turned twelve to become a blacksmith’s apprentice. His grasp of Wesley’s example, methods and teaching enabled him to adapt them to a new mission field while remaining true to the principles.

Methodism not only survived the Revolutionary War, it swept the land. Methodism under Asbury outstripped the strongest and most established denominations. In 1775 Methodists were only 2.5% of total church membership in America. By 1850 their share had risen to 34%. This was at a time when Methodist requirements for membership were far stricter than the other denominations.

Methodism was a movement. They believed the gospel was a dynamic force out in the world bringing salvation. They believed that God was powerfully and personally present in the life of every disciple, including African Americans and women, not just the clergy. They also believed it was their duty and priority to reach lost people and to plant churches across the nation.

American Methodism benefited greatly from the pioneering work of John Wesley and the English Methodists. Freed from the constraints of traditional English society, Asbury discovered that the Methodist movement was even more at home in a world of opportunity and freedom.

As the movement spread through the labors of young itinerants, Methodism maintained its cohesiveness through a well-defined system of community. Methodists remained connected with each other through a rhythm of class meetings, love feasts, quarterly meetings and camp meetings. By 1811 there were 400-500 camp meetings held annually, with a total attendance of over one million.

When Asbury died in 1816 there were 200,000 Methodists. By 1850 there were one million Methodists led by 4,000 itinerants and 8,000 local preachers. The only organization more extensive was the U.S. government.

Eventually Methodism lost its passion and settled down to enjoy its achievements. In the process it gave birth to the Holiness movement. William Seymour was a holiness preacher with a desperate desire to know the power of God. He was the son of former slaves, a janitor and blind in one eye. God chose this unlikely man to spark a movement that began in 1906 in a disused Methodist building on Azusa Street.

The emotionally charged meetings ran all day and into the night. The meetings had no central coordination, and Seymour rarely preached. He taught the people to cry out to God for sanctification, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and divine healing.

Immediately, missionaries fanned out from Azusa Street to the world. Within two years they had brought Pentecostalism to parts of Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Africa. They were poor, untrained, and unprepared. Many died on the field. Their sacrifices were rewarded; the Pentecostal/charismatic and related movements became the fastest growing and most globally diverse expression of worldwide Christianity.

At the current rate of growth, there will be one billion Pentecostals by 2025, most of them in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Pentecostalism is the fastest expanding movement—religious, cultural, or political—ever.

Jesus founded a missionary movement with a mandate to take the gospel and multiply disciples and churches everywhere. History is replete with examples of movements just like in the book of Acts; I have named only a few. Three essential elements are necessary for Jesus movements: His dynamic Word, the power of the Holy Spirit and disciples who obey what Jesus has commanded.

This article was first published in Mission Frontiers and used with permission.

About the Author: Steve Addison, author of Pioneering Movements: Leadership That Multiplies Disciples and Churches. More at movements.net 

From His Harvest To His Harvest

Grace* and some of her teammates traveled to a large Indonesian city. They went to see if God might call them to live there and begin a disciple-making movement after finishing language school and training.

On the third day there, the group met two single Indonesian women. These women live and minister an hour outside of the big city. They were sent out by a local church — a rarity in Indonesia! 

Grace was captivated by their stories and struggles as they sat cross-legged on the floor and ate together. She and Diah,* one of the Indonesians, talked about their trials on the field. Diah shared how she stuck out, hungered for community, and was thirsty to see God move among her focus people. 

Grace was flabbergasted! 

“Here I was, a 6-foot-tall foreigner who sticks out wherever she goes, meeting a tiny Chinese-Indonesian woman facing the same worries I do.” Diah explained that no matter your nationality, following and obeying Jesus is a daily choice. And not always an easy one. 

“In that moment,” Grace shares, “I was reminded that though it sometimes feels like we are doing this alone, God is working and moving in the hearts of those He has called to Himself. He sent out Diah, and He sent out me. Pray with us. Ask the Lord of the Harvest to continue to send workers from His harvest to his Harvest.”

*pseudonyms

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Called to His Own People

Yudhea’s* parents have Christian backgrounds, but his extended family is Muslim. God started working in Yudhea’s heart while he was in high school. At that time, he hung around with a tough group of friends. He wasn’t following the Lord, but God was pursuing Yudhea.  

After he surrendered his life to the Lord, Yudhea began hearing about the spiritual needs of his country in Southeast Asia. He learned that entire people groups — millions of people — don’t have access to the Good News. Even if they wanted to know more about Jesus, there was no one to tell them. This broke his heart, and he felt the Lord was calling him to go to his people and tell them. 

Soon Yudhea was connected to a local organization that sent him out to minister. Unfortunately, his team had issues that eventually caused him to return home feeling defeated and alone. That was when one of Wes and Angie’s local teammates felt the Lord prompting her to contact Yudhea. 

Over the course of several discussions, Yudhea realized he still felt called to the Unreached. He decided to move, so he could work with Wes and Angie’s team and eventually be sent back out as a disciple-maker to the Unreached. 

Before Yudhea left for the field, he spoke with Wes, reflecting on his journey. They talked about God’s beautiful plan and how He had shaped and molded Yudhea’s heart during this past season. They rejoiced together, knowing God will accomplish His plans. He is trustworthy. He is good. 

Please pray as Yudhea joins a team on another island focusing on starting a disciple-making movement among a cluster of Unreached People Groups. 

*pseudonym

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