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

“My Lip Has Fallen Off!”

You never know how God has prepared people to receive truth from his word. Sometimes we think we are the first to bring the gospel into an unreached place when, in fact, God has already been at work. *Krish’s testimony illustrates God’s work in his life before he met a man from a spreading movement in North India and became an industrious disciple-maker himself.

Krish grew up in a devout Hindu family. For six years, he had been an active member of a radical pro-Hindu group. He persecuted followers of Jesus and led others in doing so. 

One day, Krish’s doctor told him he had mouth cancer. The disease progressed until Krish’s mouth became so disfigured that he started wearing a handkerchief to cover it. 

Krish continued persecuting followers of Jesus. As Christmas approached, Krish called together a group of friends to attack a prayer meeting being held nearby. When they arrived, however, Krish realized that the pastor facilitating the meeting was a personal acquaintance. The man invited Krish to sit with them. He did. He told his Hindu friends to leave; he would “take care of things” on his own. They left, and Krish sat through the whole service. He heard about Jesus. The testimonies people shared touched him. Then they offered to pray for his healing! Krish was shocked. These people who had been the target of his aggression had welcomed him in, and then prayed for him? Krish went home befuddled but hopeful. Maybe he’d get better?! After waiting three days, his cancer remained. 

At this point in the disease, his face had become so severely deformed that he could no longer drink by himself, even through a straw. His mother had to pour water into his mouth from a cup. Krish began to feel foolish for believing he’d get better. Then he got mad. He became so angry at the pastor for building up his hope that he decided to return and beat him up. How dare the man say that God could or would heal him?! 

Krish’s mother caught him as he was heading out the door. She said, “We have paid many doctors to heal you, and they could not, yet you did not beat them. Why are you going to beat the pastor?” Her question stopped Krish cold. He had no answer. He turned around and went back inside. 

Five days later, Krish called his mother to pour water in his mouth. As he removed the handkerchief, he realized he could no longer feel his mouth. ”My lip has fallen off!” he thought. “Or maybe I am dead?!” In his terror, he began to scream. His mother ran into the room. She took one look at him and exclaimed, “Your mouth! It’s completely normal!” He had felt no pain because he was completely healed! The very next day, Krish visited the pastor and pledged his life to Jesus.

Krish’s life would change again when he later met a man named *Satish and learned how to become a disciple-maker. In two weeks, we’ll tell the story of their meeting and the fruit that has come from their partnership. Don’t miss it! 

*pseudonyms used

“Oh No! I Wouldn’t Know What to Say!”

“So, what exactly do you missionaries do?” *Betty asked.

*Lisa was surprised by the question. The two women had struck up an immediate friendship when they met in language class. Betty had retired to the same South Asian country where Lisa and *Travis had recently moved to become full-time missionaries with BEYONDBetty’s question was a surprise because she had just mentioned that she had put her trust in Jesus 50 years earlier and had been a faithful church attendee ever since. Betty said she knew many missionaries but had no idea what they did. No one had ever explained mission work to her.

“Well,” Lisa stammered, “our focus is to reach people here who have never heard the name Jesus, and therefore have never had an opportunity to say yes to Him.”  

“What does a typical day look like?” Betty pressed.

“There is no typical day, but one constant is prayer. Learning to “pray without ceasing” is not just wishful thinking. We pray a lot and schedule prayer time into our day. We spend several hours praying for our supporters, an hour each week praying for our national partners on our team, and lots of prayer for the people around us. One of the ways we pray is to prayer walk.” 

Betty didn’t know what that was. So Lisa explained that they simply walk through a local neighborhood, or sit in an open-air food court, and pray quietly for those around them. Lisa and Travis were already planning on prayer walking in a nearby village. Lisa invited Betty to come along.

“Oh, no!” Betty replied. “I wouldn’t know what to do or what to say.” (She imagined that they would be loud and obvious and thus be offensive.)

“We don’t stand on a corner and proclaim aloud,” Lisa said. “It’s all very low-key.” She went on to explain that they take Scripture verses on small note cards and quietly pray those verses as they walk along. “People looking on just assume we are conversing with each other.” 

Betty agreed to go. 

A few days later, they walked past traditional houses as they read Bible verses and prayed what the Spirit brought to their minds. “There’s a house with a tricycle in front,” Lisa said. “Let’s pray for wisdom and patience for those parents as they raise their children.” “There’s an elderly woman hanging laundry on the line,” Travis pointed out. “May she have dreams and visions of Isa al Masih, Jesus the Messiah,” he prayed. Betty relaxed, and soon she was praying too. 

Following a bend in the path, they met a woman hanging newly ironed shirts on her front door. They stopped to chat with the woman and her family and had a pleasant conversation over glasses of iced tea. Lisa asked if they could pray for them. “Yes, please do! And come back again soon for tea,” the woman invited.

Betty was delighted with the morning. It wasn’t at all like what she had first imagined when she heard Lisa mention prayer walking, Betty had to admit that prayer walking can be easy and enjoyable, as well as useful in God’s kingdom.

*pseudonyms used

“He Will Take You to a Better Place”

Part One:

If you were to walk into our church during the first ten years and then walk in now, you’d probably feel as if you’d entered two totally different churches. And you’d be right.

As Experience Life approached its tenth anniversary, I reflected on our journey. Our church had grown from 12 people meeting in my living room to a megachurch in less than ten years. More importantly, we had exceeded our goal of seeing 10,000 people commit their lives to Christ. I began asking the Lord, What do you want our vision to be for the next ten years?

That’s when I stumbled upon WIGTake.

WIGTake is a question David Watson initially formed in his work among an unreached people group in India. He asked, “What’s it going to take to reach everyone in the people group?”

This question led our Leadership Team into a season of prayer and fasting about the direction of our church for the next ten years. Our WIGTake became: What’s it going to take to reach 1,000,000 Americans in the next ten years so we’re on track to reach 200 million in 20 years?

 We knew there was a strategy that could take us to the million. It’s the strategy Jesus encouraged in the Gospels and the early church implemented in Acts. DMM, or Disciple Making Movement, is a strategy that can lead to seeing God start a Church Planting Movement. Success in a Disciple Making Movements can be summed up in two words: generational discipleship. DMMs measure whether disciples are making disciples who make more disciples who make more disciples. It’s multiplication, not addition.

 After much prayer and discussion, eLife’s Leadership Team was united in the belief that the Lord wanted us to pursue a Disciple Making Movement strategy in the next ten years

 As we began venturing into the world of disciple making, I knew we needed a coach. I met Stan Parks, Beyond’s Vice President of Global Strategies, and knew he would be able to help us get started, avoid common mistakes, and answer questions as we ran into difficult situations. 

 We asked Stan what he wanted us to do first. He said he wanted to take us through a 12-week DMM Catalyst Training. This training was based on principles God had used around the world. Stan would pass on biblical lessons the Holy Spirit had taught him through personal study of Scripture and movement catalysts like David Watson, Victor John, and many others. 

 I said, “Great! Can you send it to me?” He said, “Nope.”

 I asked, “Why not?”

 Stan made it clear that this training was not information to be transferred but biblical principles to be obeyed. Because I come from a knowledge-based culture, my tendency would be to read the twelve lessons and think, “Okay, I’ve got this; let’s move on.” But, again, this wasn’t information; these were biblical principles he wanted to coach us to obey! That means you don’t even look at lesson two until you’ve obeyed the passage from lesson one. Stan told us that the Holy Spirit would speak to us as we took a fresh look at these Bible passages. He wanted us to see the DMM principles in Scripture, so we’d be dependent on God, not on him. 

Next week we will conclude with some key principles Stan taught eLife’s leadership team. We will learn what their church looks like after transitioning from being a traditional church to a Disciple Making Movement church.

Read the whole story in Chris’s book, From Megachurch to Multiplication, which tells the story of Experience Life’s journey from being one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States to a church now focused primarily on catalyzing movements.

 This piece was summarized with permission from Mission Frontier’s article “From Big to Small – for a Big Movement” by Chris Galanos with Lorena Wood.Part Two:

Last week we began following the journey of a church (eLife – pastored by Chris Galanos) so intent on making disciples that they were willing to transition away from the traditional church model to do so. We continue with our story just after they found Stan, a coach who would guide them through the process of becoming a church focused on catalyzing movements.

In our training, Stan explained that there are certain elements consistently found in the lives of ordinary believers who are successfully making disciples in movements all over the world.  

Here are a few of the elements briefly summarized:

  • Multiply Extraordinary Prayer. Stan said, “Your prayer life now is ordinary for you. Add something to it to make it extraordinary for you. Keep repeating the process.” 
  • Go Out Among the Lost. We learned to expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results. We began to refer to such places as PIPSY places: P-poor, I-international, P-prisoner, S-sick. (The Y doesn’t stand for anything— it just turns PIPS into an adjective.) Our teams have borne the most fruit by going to PIPSY places to make disciples.
  • Casting Vision – One of the great tragedies of the American church model is an attitude that results in suppressing the gifts, ambitions, and callings of ordinary believers. Churchgoers don’t typically hear the terms disciple-maker or church-planter and think, “That’s me!” We’ve got to recover the “culture of empowerment” of ordinary believers that was evident in the first-century church. Pastors and leaders, I implore you to join me in setting believers free to make disciples and plant churches!

Let me warn you, though. Transitioning a church to focus on Disciple Making Movements (DMM) will cost you in many ways. In Jerry Trousdale’s book The Kingdom Unleashed, David Broodryk, another pastor who embraced DMM, describes the process of pursuing DMM this way:

I really do think that entry into DMM is a death experience: unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, it can bear no fruit. But the problem is, you can’t risk failure without that; risking failure in itself is a sort of death experience. If who you are is dependent on whether this thing works or fails, then you will never take a risk. But if your identity is in Christ, then you say, “I’m going to try this; if it works, great, He gets the glory; and if it doesn’t work—well, it didn’t work, but I am still secure in Him.

You may be asking what happened in eLife. Many people caught the vision! Hundreds went through our DMM training, and some of those formed DMM churches that meet in their homes. Those we sent out began to pursue the lost, not by inviting them to eLife, but by inviting them and their family or friends to read and apply the Bible together in their home. And it’s working! 

In an average week, those in just my DMM church alone will talk to almost as many lost people as our megachurch would receive as first-time guests on a weekend in our heyday. And there are just 35 of us (including kids). It’s amazing what a small group of sold-out, on-fire disciple makers can do when they strategize together and go out among the lost to make disciples and plant churches.

I think I can speak for most people involved in DMM churches by saying it’s one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever been a part of. In so many ways, it’s what I’ve always longed for in church. Not that I didn’t love our church. I did! But our DMM church is just what I pictured when I read the New Testament but felt like I’d never experienced. It’s what I had heard happened overseas but never truly understood.

I hope our story will inspire you to be led by the Spirit because He will take you to better places than anything you could’ve dreamed up. You may not even have a framework for where He’ll take you now. But if you follow Him, He’ll show you just what to do. And chances are, He’ll do infinitely more than you could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21). Just like he continues to do with us.

Chris’s book, From Megachurch to Multiplication, tells the story of Experience Life’s journey from being one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States to a church now focused primarily on catalyzing movements. Get it here.

 This piece was summarized with permission from Mission Frontier’s article “From Big to Small – for a Big Movement” by Chris Galanos with Lorena Wood. Read the whole article.

From Big to Small – for a Big Movement

Part One:

If you were to walk into our church during the first ten years and then walk in now, you’d probably feel as if you’d entered two totally different churches. And you’d be right.

As Experience Life approached its tenth anniversary, I reflected on our journey. Our church had grown from 12 people meeting in my living room to a megachurch in less than ten years. More importantly, we had exceeded our goal of seeing 10,000 people commit their lives to Christ. I began asking the Lord, What do you want our vision to be for the next ten years?

That’s when I stumbled upon WIGTake.

WIGTake is a question David Watson initially formed in his work among an unreached people group in India. He asked, “What’s it going to take to reach everyone in the people group?”

This question led our Leadership Team into a season of prayer and fasting about the direction of our church for the next ten years. Our WIGTake became: What’s it going to take to reach 1,000,000 Americans in the next ten years so we’re on track to reach 200 million in 20 years?

 We knew there was a strategy that could take us to the million. It’s the strategy Jesus encouraged in the Gospels and the early church implemented in Acts. DMM, or Disciple Making Movement, is a strategy that can lead to seeing God start a Church Planting Movement. Success in a Disciple Making Movements can be summed up in two words: generational discipleship. DMMs measure whether disciples are making disciples who make more disciples who make more disciples. It’s multiplication, not addition.

 After much prayer and discussion, eLife’s Leadership Team was united in the belief that the Lord wanted us to pursue a Disciple Making Movement strategy in the next ten years

 As we began venturing into the world of disciple making, I knew we needed a coach. I met Stan Parks, Beyond’s Vice President of Global Strategies, and knew he would be able to help us get started, avoid common mistakes, and answer questions as we ran into difficult situations. 

 We asked Stan what he wanted us to do first. He said he wanted to take us through a 12-week DMM Catalyst Training. This training was based on principles God had used around the world. Stan would pass on biblical lessons the Holy Spirit had taught him through personal study of Scripture and movement catalysts like David Watson, Victor John, and many others. 

 I said, “Great! Can you send it to me?” He said, “Nope.”

 I asked, “Why not?”

 Stan made it clear that this training was not information to be transferred but biblical principles to be obeyed. Because I come from a knowledge-based culture, my tendency would be to read the twelve lessons and think, “Okay, I’ve got this; let’s move on.” But, again, this wasn’t information; these were biblical principles he wanted to coach us to obey! That means you don’t even look at lesson two until you’ve obeyed the passage from lesson one. Stan told us that the Holy Spirit would speak to us as we took a fresh look at these Bible passages. He wanted us to see the DMM principles in Scripture, so we’d be dependent on God, not on him. 

Next week we will conclude with some key principles Stan taught eLife’s leadership team. We will learn what their church looks like after transitioning from being a traditional church to a Disciple Making Movement church.

Read the whole story in Chris’s book, From Megachurch to Multiplication, which tells the story of Experience Life’s journey from being one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States to a church now focused primarily on catalyzing movements.

 This piece was summarized with permission from Mission Frontier’s article “From Big to Small – for a Big Movement” by Chris Galanos with Lorena Wood.

“What Happened Next Was a Blur . . .”

Muharis and Ani met and married shortly after they had each been through a multi-week discipleship training on Disciple Making Movements (DMM) led by Beyond field leaders Ryan and Anna. Muharis and Ani wondered: How would Father God have them serve, in light of his desire for all peoples to hear of his Son? Both couples sought the Lord’s direction for Muharis and Ani’s life. The answer came. Muharis and Ani felt led to live and work among the Bimanese Muslims. Working with Ryan and Anna, they would form a new DMM team. They desired to see the knowledge of Christ and obedience to God’s Word transform this unreached people group. 

Muharis and Ani moved to serve the Bimanese people and soon learned of another upcoming transition. They were expecting a baby! In 2017, Muharis held his baby girl for the first time and heard the doctor pronounce that all was good. Although Ani had needed an emergency C-section to deliver the baby, she would recover as they enjoyed their precious daughter. Muharis was elated.

It should have been a time of pure rejoicing. 

What happened next was a blur to Muharis. Ani was in the recovery room when Muharis noticed a steady stream of blood oozing from his wife’s suture. He called for help. When the doctor arrived, he ordered her back into surgery. As he left to prepare, the doctor stated, “There is a 50-50 shot for me to be able to save your wife.” Muharis turned, saw his newborn daughter next to him, then fell to the floor in shock. He cried out to Father God in prayer. Then he called Ryan. Ryan and Anna mobilized their entire discipleship network in prayer for Ani.

Ani survived the ordeal. But the doctor removed her womb. 

The removal was probably not necessary. A more proficient doctor might have saved Ani without removing her womb, but skilled doctors are rare in such remote places. 

Since that day, God has blessed Muharis and Ani. He has honored their commitment to serve him no matter the personal cost. Their team has seen 117 discovery Bible study groups form. They have four house fellowships of baptized followers who meet regularly and are facilitating a second generation of discovery Bible groups!

Jesus told his disciples that following him would not be easy. We need to count the cost of discipleship.

“Your Words Are No Help to Me . . .”

Not long ago, some disciples of Jesus visited a nearby village in rural north India. Just as Jesus commanded in Luke 10, this small group walked through the village until they found a family interested in talking. They were invited into the hut of this very poor family. After quietly listening to the disciples share their personal testimonies for a while, the wife finally looked at her visitors and said, “You are outsiders. You’re not like me. Your words are no help to me.”

The disciples had to agree. Their lives were very different from hers. They knew that though their words wouldn’t make a difference in her life, Jesus’ words would. They offered her an audio speaker with excerpts of Scripture on it. They said, “Please take this. Listen to God’s Word. His stories will always bring benefit. Listen to them over and over again. But don’t just listen. At the end of each story is a set of questions. Understanding comes through discussing these questions; not just listening to the stories. We can’t always visit you, but you can always have God’s Word.”

After several months, the disciples returned to the village, expecting to find the same depressed woman. Instead, they found happy people! Lots of happy people! The first time they visited, the disciples had only met with the wife and children. This time, the husband was also present, as well as many neighbors and extended family. The disciples asked, “What is the reason you are so different from before?”

The wife began to cry tears of joy. Others cried too. When she was able to speak, she explained that she and her children had listened to the stories. Every day during their afternoon chai break from the fields, they had listened to and discussed a story. Like most Indians, their eldest son and his wife live with them. It was not a happy marriage. Their son was a drunkard who beat his wife regularly. The day he heard Genesis 2 and the creation of Adam and Eve, however, that all changed. Astonished, he had cried out: “This story says that my wife was taken from my rib. That means we are of the same body! But…” looking at his wife he said, “. . . I beat you and drink too much!”

The son repented of his attitude. His marriage improved. Others in the community joined the daily story-hearing and discussion time. Those husbands began to recognize the value of their wives. Those marriages also changed. The wives shared with other women about the stories they were hearing and how their lives were changing. Their husbands no longer beat them, but now saw them as part of themselves.

The disciples of Jesus were thrilled. While their words had been powerless to produce change, God’s Word had been enough. The Holy Spirit had given life to the stories. Today that original family and others in the village have been baptized, are being mentored by a local leader, and are reaching out to their extended families in other villages.