Lean into Chaos—It’s Often Where God Is Greatly at Work

Lean into Chaos—It’s Often Where God Is Greatly at Work

 by C. Anderson

We opened our email and read the notice. The American Consulate in India was advising all American citizens to leave the country. Threat levels were high, as the conflict between India and Pakistan escalated. In 1998, these two nations had both become nuclear powers. In 2017 and 2018, threats and border skirmishes increased between the two nations. The email came. American citizens were being advised to leave the nation. Our government could no longer be responsible for our safety.

Reading the notice, my husband and I quietly discussed it. We had three small children to consider. What about them? Tucking our sweet five-year-old, blond-headed boy into bed, I smoothed his hair back as he drifted off to sleep. Was it fair to put his little life at risk? How serious was the danger?

Ministry in the area was growing. We felt bonded with our Indian friends and colleagues. They didn’t have the option of leaving. Was it right for us to do so?

We consulted with our mission. They gave us the freedom to make our own choice about what to do; we were to follow God’s leading and our conscience. Being an agency that had a good number of national staff, it was handled differently than for fully foreign organizations. Talking to missionary friends, several reported they’d been told by their organizations to leave as soon as possible.

Going to God in prayer, peace filled our hearts.  We were to stay. Within six months, the evacuation order was lifted and a cease-fire agreement between the two nations was signed. We breathed a sigh of relief, grateful that we had chosen to stay. Our doing so had bonded us in unique ways to those we had come to reach.

Fight or Flight
Fight or flight are two common physical and mental responses to stress. Fight. We face the threat head- on, ready to engage in battle. Flight. We run from the threat, escaping it and finding a place of safety.

Our  world  is  a   place   of   increasing   turmoil. A war between Russia and Ukraine causes concern about nuclear threats around the  world.  While  the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer as deadly   as it was, it is far from gone. Floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters bring loss of life and property, making headline news.

How should a disciple-maker and Jesus follower respond? Is it fight or flight? Perhaps neither. God is often amazingly at work in chaos and turmoil. God leans into chaos and so must we.

Five Ways to Lean into Crisis
Consider the following five choices in the midst of chaos and crisis. The decisions we make in troubled times can lead to significant kingdom advance. It can cause the multiplication of disciples and the launch of new movements.

1. Choose to Stay—Those Who Stay Present in Crisis Often See the Greatest Impact

Don’t read me wrong. I’m not saying you always have to stay when there is a serious threat to life and limb. It’s a decision every person and family must prayerfully make before the Lord. We see biblical examples of both staying (Acts 4:21-31) and leaving (2 Cor. 11:32-33). Our default, however, should not be to leave. Instead, we must train ourselves to lean in. We need to recognize the opportunities crisis provides for the light of the Gospel to shine brightly.

There is a cost involved in staying, in leaning in.   I cannot minimize that. Trauma and a significant drain on mental and physical health are realities in a crisis. However, the glory of God shines brightly in these times, and many are drawn to Jesus as we offer that gift: the gift of presence to those we serve. And so we lean in.

2. Choose to advance—moving toward crisis rather than away from it.

The tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004 is forever etched in my mind. As it struck so suddenly, many dear friends and colleagues fled to the top of a mountain, barely escaping with their lives. Over 200,000 people died that day. Following the tragedy, our colleagues worked with government and army staff to bag bodies for days on end. It was not easy. Not easy at all. In that time though, unprecedented doors flung open for the Gospel to spread.

I remembered this on a call with a mentor a few months back. “Do you know any DMM-minded people going into Ukraine?” he asked. What about YWAM? Who is there and how can we train them to start DMMs there? He recognized the opportunity within the crisis. My mentor wanted to spur me, and anyone else he could find, into responding.

 A few hours later, we together made a call to someone I’m training in the United Kingdom. “Ian,” he asked, “What are you doing about Ukraine?”

Will we lean into these kinds of opportunities to minister the two hands of the Gospel? Not only to bring relief but to share the message of Christ? If we don’t, we may miss the chance to partner with God in what He is doing. And so we lean in.

3. Choose to believe God is working in the midst of tragedy.

 Most of us can quote Romans 8:28. We’ve preached sermons on it. When lives are at risk, bridges are burning, or hospitals overflow with sick and dying, we are put to the test. Do we believe that all things work together for good? Faith is a gift from God. It is also a choice we make. In the midst of crisis, we choose to believe that God is sovereignly in control. We place our hope in a God who is able to bring about incredible good out of horrible events. It’s what He does. One of the good things He so often does is to draw people to Himself in these times. Hearts are soft and open. And so we lean in.

4. Choose to let go of old norms and wineskins.

 Crisis times have a way of destroying the old and making way for the new. During the COVID-19 pandemic,  church  buildings  across  the  globe had to close. We  were  forced  to  meet  at  home or online if we were to meet at all. It was an unwanted change of the primary wineskin  we used to gather as a body. Today, we are mostly past that. What have we learned? How have we grown? Are any of those new wineskins to remain? So many have quickly reverted to the old, preferring to go backward instead of forward

Part of leaning in is letting go. It’s listening and discerning what God might be releasing in the midst of the difficulty. And so we lean in.

It may be hidden, but it is there. Receive it. Lean into God with open hands and open heart, ready   to  accept  God’s  somewhat  mysterious   gifts:  the kind He gives in the darkest of times. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a pearl of great price. Those priceless treasures are often given in times of difficulty and pain. Deep friendships, the revelation of new experientially understood truth from His Word, unusual miracles and supernatural encounters…these are a few of the hidden treasures that can be found. And with it, the joy of seeing many lost people swept into His kingdom. And so we lean in.

 The 17th century in England was a time of great social upheaval, civil war, and political crisis. In this environment, revivalists George Whitefield and Charles Wesley emerged. Revival swept the nation. Between 1738 and 1791, 1.35 million people put their faith in Christ.1 These men leaned into crisis and partnered with what God was doing.

 May we be courageous enough to do the same. Our willingness to lean in may result in hundreds, if not thousands, of new movements being catalyzed across the globe.

 About the Author:C. Anderson is passionate about seeing hundreds of Disciple-Making movements take off among the world’s unreached peoples. She has served as  a church planter, coach, and trainer. She has been a speaker about multiplying movements of disciples for the past twenty-five years. While most of her experience is in Asia, she was worked in other regions of the world as well. She writes a weekly blog at dmmsfrontiermissions.com

 This article was first published in Mission Frontiers:Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements, Jan/Feb 2023, pages 46-48. It was used here with permission.

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Openness in SE Asia – Thanks to COVID

Openness in SE Asia – Thanks to COVID

In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, disciples of Jesus in Northeast Thailand have changed how they begin conversations with people when they go out to prayer walk and share the gospel. Media coverage and the extensive government lockdown have created fear and uncertainty. Going to nearby villages can draw criticism and opposition. Each village headman, assisted by volunteers, investigates any visitors from outside the village, especially those returning from other countries. 

Social pressure is intense, so adjustments have been made in approaches to sharing the gospel. Some believers have switched to only sharing in villages where disciples live and are known. Since more family members are at home together, they can all hear the Good News at the same time. And when more family members hear together, they are more likely to feel free to come to faith in Jesus.

Another adjustment has been ensuring that disciples who do go to other villages know how to prevent COVID-19 transmission and how to help those who may have the disease. The disciples have learned that, by talking about the pandemic and meeting a felt need by giving out health kits, they can create opportunities to engage in spiritual conversations. (The kits contain a small bottle of isopropyl alcohol, a bar of soap and hand towel, a hand-sewn washable face mask, a pamphlet on COVID-19 prevention produced by the Thai Ministry of Health, and a Scripture verse or Bible portion.)

After passing out kits, talking about how to prevent contracting the virus, and sharing information such as when to take loved ones for medical care, disciples ask, “Are you or your family suffering in some way from the lockdown?” or “Is anyone feeling anxious or fearful?” After listening to the reply, they share, “I follow Jesus, who gives peace that transcends all understanding and guards my heart and mind.” (Phil 4:7) The disciple then shares a relevant personal testimony, shares the gospel, or prays a blessing that addresses the particular concerns. Overall, believers are finding more openness to the gospel than in normal times.  Several have come to faith in just the past month!

Ebola, Covid, and Movements, What?

Ebola, Covid, and Movements, What?

In 2014, an outbreak of Ebola emerged in West Africa, infecting 8,704 people and killing 3,589. A Disciple Making Movement* was already underway there when the deadly and highly contagious virus struck. To help ministries and movement leaders grappling with new ministry paradigms due to COVID-19, a movement leader from West Africa recently shared insights on multiplying the church during a pandemic.

First, the movement leaders adopted a strategic long term plan. They asked themselves, “How can God use us to deal with the damage today, but also to put in place the foundation of his kingdom for the future?” 

The majority of the movement’s effort was “repurposed” into serving the public alongside other community leaders. They worked with government officials, mosque leaders, health workers, and other church structures and charitable organizations in a concerted effort to combat the virus and its effects. (These efforts would later create unique Kingdom opportunities.) They worked to help the public accept reality, combat fear, and become educated about Ebola. Followers of Jesus brought food into villages, volunteered in medical clinics, drove ambulances, buried the dead, prayed on hospital grounds, produced encouraging radio programs, and served willingly in any way they could. In serving their communities, many risked their lives, and several died after contracting the virus.

People in the movement didn’t stop sharing the gospel. Yes, momentum was lost. The process of a Disciple Making Movement relies on sharing with others and meeting together to discuss Scripture. But they did press on. Whenever they could, they pointed others to God and trusting in Him. They prayed and fasted. They encouraged people and endeavored to bring hope. People saw the hand of Jesus through the serving believers. Communities that had not previously been receptive to the gospel opened up because of the service of believers in the midst of the crisis. “We followed a lot of people back to their villages, and some decided to follow Jesus.”

This leader stressed the importance of serving in our own areas of influence and exhorted the global church to move toward the current situation, not away from it. By working for the common good through the combination of their prayers and meeting felt needs in the community, they found they were able to shape the culture around them. After the Ebola crisis passed, the church was able to bounce back and found their work had produced “spiritual dividends.” That is good news indeed.  

*Part of the DNA of Disciple Making Movements (and the agencies that serve and facilitate them) is to share important lessons learned with other movement practitioners. We wish to thank our friends and 24:14 partners at New Generations for permitting us to share the information in this article with you.

Can the Church Be Locked Down?

Can the Church Be Locked Down?

A few weeks ago in Nepal, Joel, BEYOND’s Tibetan/Himalayan field leader, and his national team were training foreign workers in a local church on how to start Disciple-Making Movements among Unreached people groups. Part of the training presents a method for house churches to meet together using a process called Discovery Bible Study (DBS).

When the government announced the ban on large gatherings, the pastor of the church, who had been attending the training as he was able, asked that some people from his church be taught how to lead house churches through DBS. Joel’s team joyfully did so, instructing those gathered on the simple method of reading a passage of Scripture, asking a few questions, and listening for how God would have them obey what they read.

“There is no substitute for meeting in a small group as the body of Christ,” Joel shares, “even in a group as small as two or three people. This method is how the Tazig people, my focus people group, meet together.”

“During this season of social distancing, we want to continue to grow in our walks with Christ. While some growth comes from individual disciplines, God has designed us to grow together as communities. That community doesn’t have to be 100+ people. It can be 3-10 people meeting together, praying, worshipping, keeping each other accountable, studying Scripture, and discipling and caring for one another. So while we are only able to meet with those in our households, or in small groups of friends and family, I recommend trying a Discovery Bible Study in your home!”

The following week as the nation went into a full lockdown, the Tazig DBS groups and house churches tried to meet by video conference, but technical difficulties prevented them. Not wanting to give up, they tried again the next day by sending out a Scripture passage from Matthew 9 via Facebook Messenger. They sent out the questions, allowing two hours or so for responses.

“We enjoyed seeing the responses come in all day,” Joel says. “Some people sent voice messages; some sent text messages. People responded to each other’s answers with ‘likes’ and various Facebook reactions.”

Meeting in this way allowed them to have real and meaningful interaction. Their phone notifications became less about sharing the latest news of COVID and instead highlighted what their brothers or sisters in Christ were learning and applying from Scripture.

*pseudonyms used

Do We Do What We Say We Believe?

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 BEYOND, we 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