Eid Al Adha

Eid Al Adha

Every year Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha (June 17), the Feast of Sacrifice. It is considered to be one of the most significant holidays of the year and is celebrated for one to four days, depending on regional cultural norms. Eid al-Adha marks Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Ishmael, his son by Hagar. God, however, seeing Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, provided a ram to sacrifice in Ishmael’s place. 

Muslim families remember Abraham’s willingness to serve God by slaughtering a costly animal — a sheep, goat, cow, or camel. The animal is divided into thirds; one-third is kept for one’s own family, one-third for friends and neighbors, and one-third is given to the poor. 

Join us in prayer for Muslims during Eid al-Adha:

  • Ask God to show Muslims that He provided the ultimate sacrifice for us, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29b)
  • Pray that Muslims will understand Jesus’ sacrifice. “People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.” (Romans 3:25b)
  • Pray the Good News of Jesus’ sacrifice will be joyfully shared among family, friends, and neighbors, producing a wave of new followers of Jesus Christ.

LEARN ABOUT OTHER FESTIVALS AND HOLIDAYS

VESAK
The celebration honors Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. Many believe that … LEARN MORE

THE NIGHT OF POWER
…the night when Mohammed is thought to have begun receiving the … LEARN MORE

THE FESTIVAL OF COLORS
… bright, powdered pigments that are a trademark of this festival… LEARN MORE

A Bold Witness

A Bold Witness

Yeng is Khmer (most Khmers are Buddhist) who comes from a big family. Her husband, Pouch, is blind; her 97 years old mother-in-law and three grandsons all live with her. Yeng works hard to provide for the needs of her family. Every day she sells green leaves at the market to support her family. It is not much, but with the money that she earns from selling these leaves, she is able to provide meals for her family.

Recently, while Yeng was at the market a lady, who is also really poor, came by to visit. Yeng kindly shared some of her vegetables with her visitor. After the visitor left, the seller who sits near Yeng asked her why she would give food away for free like she had. She asked, “Are you a Christian?”

Immediately, Yeng said: “Yes, I believe in Jesus”. To which the seller replied: “you are like Jesus.  You have a good heart; you are loving and kind to people”.

Yeng saw this statement as a great opportunity to share about what Jesus had done on the cross for all mankind. At the end of the conversation, the seller said: “I believe in Jesus too, but I don’t have a heart like yours. I’m so busy with my work, that sometimes I don’t feel close to God.  My family does not believe in Jesus yet, and often they pray to our ancestors, and sometimes I do that too.”

“No, you cannot worship ancestors; they are not God you need to worship the ONE and TRUE God who is our Lord Jesus Christ only”, said Yeng. The chatted a little more and Yeng invited the seller to the house church that meets in her home. The seller promised that she would come when she had time. Pray for Yeng, that she would continue in her bold witness for the Lord and that she would remain an example of His love and kindness. Pray for Yeng’s friend, that she will seek Yeng out for more conversations about God.

RELATED STORIES

SHARING JESUS STORIES IN THE MARKET
Looking at the group of women gathered to study Bible stories in the humid wet market, Amy’s* heart was moved. She thought back to how it had all begun. 
read more …

FINDING GOD’S PREPARED PEOPLE
As Daw and his partner walked down the village road, a young man came walking toward them. read more …

LIVING OUT LOUD
As they talked, many curious people came over to engage Grace in conversation. One man asked about her religion.  read more …

Sheep Make Sheep – What?

Sheep Make Sheep – What?

In Matthew 9:36-38, we read that Jesus told His first disciples the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. He then stated His solution to the problem: pray for God to thrust out His children from their own places into the fields that are ripe for harvest. The harvest is ready. It just needs laborers to bring it in. 

We have heard these words before. In fact, they get repeated so often that it’s easy to miss their importance. In 2011, movement catalysts *Ethan and *Nicole began to wrestle with this description of the harvest. “Was Jesus right? Is the harvest actually plentiful?” They had to admit they believed the opposite: “A plentiful harvest, Jesus? Really? Lord, if only You knew how things are in this place! People aren’t interested in You or Your Kingdom.”  

They started to ask themselves some serious questions: “What if the bottleneck isn’t, in fact, with the lost but with us, His children? With me, His child?” They searched the Scriptures, asking the Lord to show them what they were missing. He showed them two things:

First, they read the parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15 with new eyes. In the story, the Shepherd doesn’t hang out with the found sheep. He goes out looking for the lost one. Ethan and Nicole asked themselves: “Who are we in this story?” Every time they had previously read the parable, they had put themselves in the position of the lost. But the truth is, Jesus had found them a long time ago. They were safe! So, where’s the shepherd? He’s out looking for the one who’s lost. 

Ethan and Nicole knew they wanted to be out with the Shepherd. The question was, practically, what would that take? For them, it meant freeing up schedules. They were so busy doing Christian things with Christians that they didn’t know many people who weren’t Christians. They realized they needed to stop spending so much time in the church. It was time to actually go OUT. If that’s where Jesus was, they wanted to be with Him there.  

Second, a simple statement from a dear friend engaged their hearts. He said, “Sheep make sheep.” What?! They stared dumbfounded at him as he explained, “Shepherds don’t make sheep. Sheep make sheep, naturally.” They realized that they had spent many years and much effort training shepherds (pastors, church leaders) to go make sheep. But, if sheep make sheep, then they needed to rethink everything.

As they searched the Scriptures, they were amazed to see how quickly Jesus equipped and released sheep (His disciples) to go and make other sheep, including those who knew little-to-nothing about Him, who came from ugly backgrounds or who had little-to-no education (e.g. Mark 5:19-20; John 4:28-30, 39). 

So, they changed their tactics. They began encouraging sheep to make other sheep, starting from their first encounter with Jesus and His Word. They said it like this: “Truth is not to be hoarded, but shared. With whom can you share this Bible story we studied today? With whom can you share your story of all Jesus has done for you?” 

They found that when new “sheep” were encouraged, even expected, to freely pass on to others all they were learning, they multiplied themselves. And it happened quickly. In one year, they made disciples of Jesus who made disciples, who made more disciples, seven times over.

RELATED STORIES

ONE ILLNESS, 63 HOUSE CHURCHES
We first came to this area one year ago. At today’s meeting, Nishan, one of the local leaders, shared how he and his family and his family
read more …

THREE MAJOR HINDRANCES – 4000 DISCIPLES
Hanli* helped her husband track data describing their region’s largest family of church planting movements.  read more …

30, 000 – 50, 000 New North Indian Churches
“By God’s grace alone,” Nicole says, “we think that roughly 100,000 families have become disciples of Jesus.  read more …

The Best Hope for Reaching Frontier Peoples

The Best Hope for Reaching Frontier Peoples

by Stan Parks

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations (i.e., ethne)—whole populations united by culture, traditions, geography, and languages. What does it mean to disciple an entire people group? 

Today, we see an unprecedented move of the Holy Spirit around the world where God starts and sustains church planting movements (CPMs). These movements involve multiplication: disciples making disciples and leaders developing leaders, resulting in indigenous churches planting churches. These churches begin to spread rapidly through a people group or population segment. Although these new disciples and churches have typical human failures and weaknesses, God uses them to begin transforming their communities. 

They become new manifestations of Christ’s Body living out kingdom values. Consider that out of 7,000+ unreached people groups (UPGs), almost 5,000 are frontier people groups (FPGs are UPGs with less than 0.1% Christian). Exponential multiplication is clearly the only way to reach the billions of people in these groups. 

Thankfully, these UPGs and FPGs are not isolated communities needing 7,000 or 5,000 separate gospel efforts. These groups are interrelated through language, culture, geography, religion, and kinship. The Joshua Project identifies 269 people clusters containing all 17,286 people groups globally. The 123 still-unreached clusters contain 7,250 UPGs. Reaching one or more UPGs in a cluster can create leverage to reach the remaining UPGs.

For example, the Bhojpuri CPM leaders were not willing to limit their efforts to the 100+ million Bhojpuri speakers. God has used them to impact millions of others by catalyzing CPMs in eight neighboring language groups and five major cities in North India.1 All over the world, we see not only disciples making disciples and churches birthing churches but also movements catalyzing movements. 

As researchers study the amazing work of God in 1,965 currently known CPMs with 114+ million disciples,2 they have discovered a critical truth. Not only are movements the fastest way God’s kingdom is growing in our day; they are also the source from which most new movements are springing up. Only about 10% of existing movements were started by a catalyst(s) from a far-distant culture who found an inside catalyst(s) to plant the first churches.3 The vast majority of current movements (approximately 90% of them) were started by believers from other near-culture movements. Some used the term “hot coals” to describe this spread as a metaphor for embers from an existing fire being used to start fires in a new location.

Some have asked, “How can we motivate these CPM disciples to reach FPGs?” In reality, they are far more motivated (and sacrificial and effective) than are many Westerners. Our role as the global Body of Christ should be to learn from them and serve them as they lead the way in reaching FPGs.

These CPMs around the world have been so catalytic that the currently listed 1,965 movements are reported by only 40 movement “families.”4 For example, “Family 1” has started multiplying churches in 768+ languages. “Family 2” is multiplying churches in 157 of the 320 UPGs in their region with plans to begin reaching the remaining 163 UPGs in the next few years. “Family 3” is impacting 73+ UPGs with efforts to reach an additional 50+. “Family 4” started 12 years ago and serves 400+ UPGs with 4+ generations of churches, another 130 with some fruit, and an additional 400 UPGs they need to reach

As these movements launch into new groups, we recognize they are having a greater impact on the FPGs than we realized. Research from the 24:14 coalition of movements shows the following information.

This information creates a clear strategic delineation. 

For category #1, we need to ask the movement leaders how best to assist them, either in beginning work or expanding already existing work. Category #2 is typically more challenging, so we need to ask how we can work together to bring “hot coals” to ignite responses among FPGs in a different country.

For category #3, we can inform movement leaders and disciples of the need and see if any respond to go to a new group and then help them as much as possible. If that does not happen, our best approach would be to work with both movement leaders and outside movement catalysts to mold new catalysts from anywhere in the world. We then work together to help them catalyze pioneering efforts into the gaps. CPMs are well positioned to reach the FPGs for several reasons: 

  1. Bible as foundation

Disciples in CPMs take Scripture very seriously. Everyone is expected to obey God’s Word. God is the foremost teacher (John 6:44–45). Disciples know they are accountable for obeying the Word. This emphasis helps to avoid importing outside biases and traditions into the new work. The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to guide new disciples into all truth. The good news bears fruit in ways natural to each culture yet rooted in the Bible.

  1. Prayer

A church planting movement is always preceded by a prayer movement. CPMs are also marked by prayer, being “prayer movements” in and of themselves. New disciples know what it means to live in darkness. They also know that God is the only one who can break the bondage. So, these disciples realize the need to pray and to multiply prayer in others. 

  1. Ordinary people

One striking aspect of CPMs is the role of the “ordinary person.” CPM DNA can be passed from an existing movement to a new movement. God’s work is not restricted to trained professionals. Instead, the Holy Spirit uses ordinary people to share the gospel, cast out demons, heal the sick, and multiply disciples and churches. Brand new believers are powerfully bringing the gospel to new places. They are ordinary people filled with the Spirit of an extraordinary God.

  1. Groups not individuals

 In Acts, we see households and even some whole communities turn to the Lord. Likewise, we are seeing the same dynamic in today’s movements. Most of these movements are happening among UPGs, who tend to be much more communal than Westerners. In these cultures, decisions are made by the families and/or clans. Collective responses to Christ can make a rapid impact in reaching new families and clans.

  1. Empowering others

 Leaders in CPMs are focused on reproducing new leaders, not the number of their own personal followers. They seek to empower people to reach others, training new leaders and delegating responsibilities. Just as Jesus said his disciples would do greater things than he did, healthy movement leaders equip their spiritual children and grandchildren to surpass them. 

  1. Business for kingdom advance

House churches are led by volunteers rather than professional clergy. Everyone is a minister and church offerings go to help the poor and share the gospel. Major funding is not needed because the churches do not have special church buildings or staff. However, they sometimes do need funds to take the gospel to new areas. Sometimes funds have come from the outside as the global Body of Christ helps the movements reach into new people groups and places. However, receiving outside funds is increasingly challenging in many unreached countries due to growing government surveillance and restrictions. In recent years, many movements have started kingdom-focused businesses that can fund ongoing pioneer efforts. 

Clearly, movements with hundreds or thousands of churches yield many of the best laborers to spark similar movements among FPGs. As a global body, we should prioritize resourcing and serving CPM disciples. They are the best hope to reach the millions of people in the remaining FPGs.

About the Author: Stan is a Church Planting Movements trainer and a coach for leaders of Church Planting Movements around the world. He has been serving Unreached People Groups since 1994 while based in Indonesia, Singapore and Dubai. He is Co-Facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition which is focused on Kingdom Movement engagements in every Unreached People and place by 2025.

This article was first published in Mission Frontiers March/April 2024 edition | Seeking Movements Among Frontier People pages 27-29. It was used here with permission.

Testimony of a Viable, Indigenous Church Planting Movement

Testimony of a Viable, Indigenous Church Planting Movement

by R.Rekedal Smith

Ralph Winter once said: “The essential missionary task is to establish  a viable, indigenous church planting movement  that carries the potential to renew whole extended families and transform whole societies. It is  viable  in that it can grow on its own,  indigenous  meaning that it is not seen as foreign, and a  church planting movement that continues to reproduce intergenerational fellowships… able to evangelize the rest of the people group. A viable, indigenous church planting movement.”

In India? My husband, Steve, and I didn’t believe it was possible. Until it happened. 

Steve and I first moved to India in 2001. Over the years, we were involved in many good, Christian activities, but by 2011, we had not established anything close to an indigenous church planting movement. We knew of two Hindu families who’d begun following Jesus through our work, but neither had multiplied other disciples for Christ. What a discouraging summary of 10 years of prayer and work! We weren’t alone. Other expat workers were equally unfruitful. We all had explanations for our fruitlessness: 

  • The [spiritual] ground here is really hard. Hindus aren’t interested. 
  • The gospel message isn’t contextualized enough for Hindus to accept.
  •  The only available Bible translation is out of date. 
  • Jesus said that few find the narrow way that leads to life (Matt 7:14), so we shouldn’t expect many to be saved. 

In 2011, our sending agency, BEYOND, conducted a two week disciple making training with one purpose— to spend time looking at nothing but Scripture.

No manuals. No quotes from famous authors. No missional theses. 

Just a deep dive into what the Word of God has to say about reaching and discipling the lost and about church planting strategies. 

During the training, my husband and I were forced to admit that we knew more about what our favorite authors and fellow missionaries had to say about evangelism and outreach than what was in the Word. We knew what our contemporaries claimed about the “right” way to reach Hindus, but we’d never seriously studied the Bible to see what it had to say. 

I was raised in the church, decided to be a missionary in junior high, and graduated from Bible college. Yet, no one ever advised me simply to follow the strategies that Jesus both modeled and taught concerning outreach and disciple making. Did Jesus even make strategic choices? Didn’t he just kind of walk around with the chosen few, sharing stories that no one really understood until the time came for him to redeem the world? Did he ever purposefully reach out to lost people? How sad that I could quote strategies from Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, and Paul, but not from Jesus.

 After the training, Steve and I compared the Bible with our missional strategies and outreach tools, determined to let go of assumptions and approaches that weren’t in Scripture. “Our” strategies hadn’t been fruitful anyway, so we had nothing to lose by letting them go. For outreach, we began to apply literally Luke 10:1–12. Again, nothing else had worked. Why not try going as Jesus had done and taught his disciples to do? So, as obvious as it sounds, this meant we had to actually go. 

In Luke 10, Jesus’ disciples only went. They didn’t go-then-invite, which was, of course, our standard practice. Whether VBS programs for children, medical drives, literacy programs, or skills training, none of these activities are bad in and of themselves. But, when Jesus sent out the 12, he told them simply to go humbly and with prayer. They were even instructed to leave everything at home. Talk about the opposite of our outreach strategies! More than just going, they went with a sense of neediness to lost people, as sheep among wolves (Luke 10:3). Had Steve and I ever gone to the lost like that? We had to admit it. We hadn’t. 

Jesus’ strategies are so rich, but I’ll touch on just one more here. In Luke 10:5–7, Jesus instructed his disciples to enter a house and stay in it. The Greek word for house, oikos, refers to a household or community. In other words, one-on-one outreach was not included in Jesus’ strategy. His disciples were to meet with families or existing relationship groups. 

Reach out to an entire household? This was definitely not standard practice for our outreach efforts. Sure, Steve and I prayed for our relatives back home to also follow Jesus. After all, the Philippian jailer and his whole household were saved (Acts 16:31–34), but we’d never considered targeting oikos as strategic for reaching the lost. A search of the Scriptures shows that the Philippian jailer’s family isn’t an anomaly. Whole households are saved from Genesis to Revelation, including but not limited to Rahab and her whole family, the Samaritan woman and her village, Cornelius and his family, as well as Lydia and hers. Likewise, see Joshua 2:18; 6:22–23; John 4:39–42; Acts 10:27–33; 16:15. 

Besides literally applying Luke 10, we looked for others who also wanted to see more fruit from among the lost. The Lord led us to a small group of Christian Indians who were willing to try these new things (which were really old). Truthfully, this story is their story. 

God has worked much more through the Christian Indians than us to complete this essential missionary task. In six months, that group of 15 Christians started 65 Bible studies in Hindu households (oikos). Many of those households received baptism, even knowing persecution might result. Also, many became co-laborers in the harvest. Thus, there were now two generations of disciples going and starting new Bible studies. Multiplication had begun.

That was 12 years ago. There are now over 300,000 churches planting churches and three million baptized followers of Jesus across 16 states in India (over half the country). Disciples of Jesus come from all walks of life: Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and even Christian (important in a country of self-designated “name Christians”). There are well over 250 caste groups represented in this indigenous, viable church planting movement. As many might expect, there are Dalit and Tribal households, but there also are Brahmin, Rajput, Jat, Thakur, even Baniya, and many others. 

How are so many caste groups being touched by the good news? Some households become followers because someone from their own caste reaches out. Others become followers due to outreach across caste or religious lines. In caste-striated, religiously divided India, doesn’t reaching across caste or religious lines cut a person off from his or her family? It certainly can and does when individuals act in isolation. Thus, we praise God for including oikos in his outreach strategy! 

When an oikos is discipled together, they support and encourage each other. They spur each other on to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24), applying God’s Word to their lives in practical ways, even difficult verses like love your enemies (Matt 5:43–48), and that, in Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek…slave nor free…male nor female [but] all are one… (Gal 3:28). They learn to obey together, even in opposition to accepted cultural practices. This is not just an assumption. With around 300,000 house churches, there are countless other examples to recall. The only way this movement has grown across 16 states in 12 years is because households are actively engaged in the essential missionary task of establishing a viable, indigenous movement  that renews whole extended families (and whole villages, in some cases). Rejoice with us! God is building his Church! In fact, indigenous movements are happening on every continent today, with over 40 in South Asia alone. Hallelujah! 

Lord, I’m sorry that for so long I blamed the lost for being lost. Thank you for appointing us for fruitfulness (John 15:16). Forgive us for being content with little. Jesus, you are worth the worship of all nations, including those who have yet to hear. May we, your people, be willing to stop, start, or change whatever needs stopping, starting, or changing to see your great harvest brought in so that the end can come (Matt 24:14)

Steve and I wish we had more space to brag about our Indian co-laborers. God has done and is doing great things through them! They face intense opposition. Some have had their homes burned to the ground. Many have been beaten and/or imprisoned. Others have been killed for following Jesus. In response, the churches are caring for widows and orphans. They visit those who are imprisoned and pray for their persecutors. Meanwhile, they continue to multiply and do not shrink back. We are honored to know them.

This article was first published in Mission Frontiers March/April 2024 edition | Seeking Movements Among Frontier People pages 24-26. It was used here with permission.

About the Author: R. R. Smith and her family  serve with Beyond, a missions organization wholly dedicated to seeing Acts-like movements birthed among the world’s unreached peoples.