When 3+2=27+300

When 3+2=27+300

Three years ago, the caste leaders of a village attacked a visiting disciple of Jesus named Roman. They wanted Roman to stop telling “their” people about Jesus. They beat him up, destroyed his motorcycle, and threatened to do worse if he didn’t leave immediately. Roman was terrified. He fled the village and spent the next few days hiding in the jungle. Disciples of Jesus from other villages brought him food and other essentials. After a few days, Roman stopped hiding. He first went home, then, amazingly, he returned to the village he’d fled.

The caste leaders were unhappy. “We beat you. Now, you’re back!?”

“You must hear me,” Roman said. “I have good words for you.”

Intent on stopping Roman for good, the village leaders “reported” him to local Hindu radicals. They came and threatened Roman. He responded by boldly proclaiming the Good News about Jesus. Eventually, the group left, but later, two returned to speak with Roman privately. Roman asked two other movement leaders to join him in the village. Once all were together, the Hindu men exclaimed, “What kind of strength do you have to endure these things [beatings and threats]!?!” The five men talked for days and visited a local house church.

As soon as the two Hindu men returned to their own community, they started a Discovery Bible Study. Four months later, 27 people in their village, most of whom had also been radical Hindus, were baptized as disciples of Jesus. Of the 27, three pairs of workers emerged who have influenced 300 villages for Jesus so far. Recently, 60 people from those villages gathered to learn how they also can make more followers within the disciple-making movement and see new churches birthed in other unreached villages.

Being a disciple of Jesus does not erase suffering or eliminate trouble. However, when struggles come, we, like Roman, can listen to the Spirit and obediently go where He leads. We serve a God who performs wonders – Sauls become Pauls, Simons turn into Peters, and Sons of Thunder change to loving servants!

 

WHEN TRADITION CLASHES
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Wife Beater to Jesus Follower

Wife Beater to Jesus Follower

Nur had an anger problem. Almost daily, he would say degrading and vile things to his wife. One day, he went a step further and landed a few punches on his defenseless wife. Fearfully, she fled to her parents’ house, and the police arrested Nur.

When his wife refused to press charges, Nur was released. Filled with humiliation and deep remorse, he returned to his empty house.

Sam and Nancy visited Nur. They listened patiently, then said, “Nur, what you did is inexcusable. You must change, and real change starts on the inside. Study about the prophets and Jesus with us and ask God to change you.”

Like a starving man, Nur devoured the Scriptures and sought to apply them to his life. He put aside his Islamic beliefs and decided to follow Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

Though she was still living with her parents, Nur’s wife observed the change in him. When he invited her to come back home, she cautiously agreed. Nur gathered his son and daughter-in-law, and the four of them studied the same prophet and Jesus stories under the mentorship of Sam and Nancy.

They have all come to faith, been baptized, and now meet as a house church.

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Someone Has to Be First (Part 2)

Someone Has to Be First (Part 2)

The Power of Promise

by Steve Smith

There was a time in Israel when there was no precedent for killing giants. Less than a generation earlier, Israel was paralyzed at the very thought of approaching a giant in hand-to-hand combat. 1 Samuel 17 describes Goliath as a giant of a man who stood over nine feet tall (v.4)!

Saul stood head and shoulders above the men of Israel (1 Sam. 9:2), yet in his own strength he cowered in fear. For weeks, the Israelites camping in the Valley of Elah followed Saul’s example, frozen with fear (1 Sam 17:10-11, 23-24). Each day Goliath taunted them. Each day they fled from the battle. They lived a lifestyle of fear and lack of faith.

When David saw this scene unfold he was appalled. David believed the promise that God would overcome this giant because he understood the heart of God. God had promised to give His people the land and to give them victory over their enemies. In David’s mind, it was Goliath against God. Goliath didn’t stand a chance.

What do you do when you have no precedent?  All you have is a promise. The promise is enough!

What’s going through David’s mind? We are not told, but he begins to shout the promise out loud to the enemy:

“You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts….” (1 Sam. 17:45, NASB)

Whether fear was creeping in to David’s heart or not, we don’t know. But his heart meditated on the promise of God in the face of the enemy.

The promise is enough
At the end of the day, if you have no precedent for a church-planting movement, and all you have is a promise, it is enough. David acted on the promise and became a giant killer. His example served as a precedent (model) for others to follow. What’s radical today is commonplace tomorrow.

Fifteen years ago, CPMs were only a dream. Today, CPMs are almost taken for granted in many places around the world. Why? That’s the power of precedent.

But when you don’t yet have a precedent, the promise of Scripture is still clear. God will harvest a great multitude from every people group and He will launch discipleship revolutions that will rock the world (e.g. Matt. 24:14, Rev. 7:9, John 4:35, Matt. 9:37-38, Mark 1:15-17, Matt. 13:23, Matt. 13:31-32, Mark 4:26-29; Acts 19:10). Live your life based on His promise. He wants to fulfill it in your place, at this time, through you!

Epilogue: Forgotten Precedent
Sometimes there is precedent from history but we have forgotten it. CPMs are not simply a modern-day phenomenon. Throughout church history, there have been CPM-like movements.

Sometimes, there is precedent from history but we have forgotten it. Such was the case with the story of David and Goliath.

According to Joshua 15:14, 400 years earlier, Caleb, at the age of 85, drove out three giants from the mountain God had promised him. The ancient record indicates the race of giants Caleb defeated were even larger than those that David and his men encountered.

Forty years before that, Moses and his army defeated Og of Bashan (Num. 21:33-35). According to Scripture, Og was even bigger still. The Bible says Og slept in a 13-foot bed (Deut. 3:11); remember Goliath was only nine feet tall! Og was so frightening that God appeared to Moses personally to promise his deliverance, announcing:

Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand, and all his people and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon, king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon. (Num. 21:34, NASB)

Moses had a promise from God. And he had personal precedent on a smaller scale (Sihon). It was enough.

Did the army of Israel, camped in the Valley of Elah, taunted by the giant Goliath remember these stories?

If they did, they apparently dismissed them as irrelevant:

  •  That can’t happen here. Our situation is different.
  •  That can’t happen through us. Moses and Caleb were special.
  •  That can’t happen today. It’s ancient history; God no longer works that way.

If they had forgotten them, it was their loss. It was a precedent they could have used.

Did David know those stories? We don’t know. If so, then perhaps they inspired him as he ran toward the battle line. He had precedent.

If they were forgotten stories, stored in musty scrolls in a tabernacle, unavailable to a common shepherd boy, it didn’t matter. He knew his God. The promise was enough.

This article was adapted from the final chapter of Steve Smith with Ying Kai’s book T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution (Richmond: WIGTake Resources, 2011), the inside story of the world’s fastest growing church-planting movement. It was first published in Mission Frontiers Magazine.

About Steve Smith: Steve Smith planted a church in Los Angeles and then helped initiate a church planting movement (CPM) among an unreached people group in East Asia. He trained believers in CPM and worked with the International Mission Board (SBC) in reaching Southeast Asian Peoples. Steve graduated to heaven in March 2019

*CPM numbers have since grown.

Missed Part 1? Read it here: Part 1

Someone Has to Be First (Part 1)

Someone Has to Be First (Part 1)

The Power of Precedent 

by Steve Smith

As a CPM trainer, I often get requests from missionaries to send them CPM case studies. Their preference is for a study that exactly matches their situation. I get requests like this:

Do you have an example of a CPM among educated, post-modern Middle-Eastern Arabs living in Western Europe?

 I check my files. Nope. No case study for such a group. Their response seems to say:

 Well, that proves it! A CPM can’t happen in my people group!

 Their logic makes no sense. The absence of a case study only proves that we don’t yet have a CPM among that people group!

 So, I send them case studies from China. They respond: “Don’t send me these. Of course CPMs can occur there; that’s China!”

They don’t realize that CPM pioneers in China in the late 1990s were told: “It takes an average of four years to win a Chinese atheist to the Lord.”

 So, I send them several Indian case studies.

 They reply: “Don’t send me these case studies. Of course CPMs can happen there. That’s India. So many people speak English there!”

 They don’t know that the area was historically called the “Graveyard of Missionaries” because of its unresponsiveness.

 As I’m beginning to get frustrated, they say they really want a case study for reaching Muslims. So I send them a case study of the largest Muslim-background CPM in the world. But their response is: “Don’t give me this. That’s in South Asia. It’s easy there!”

 They don’t understand that believers in that movement gather offerings to rebuild burned-down homes of persecuted Christians and assist Christian women who have been raped by their persecutors.

 Finally, I send a confidential case study of a Muslim-background CPM in one of the most restricted countries in the Middle East. The response I get is: “Impossible. They must be lying!” (I’ve actually been told this several times.)

 At this point, I see that for some people no amount of case studies will convince them. There is a basic disconnect in their faith in the very nature of God and His heart to reach the nations.

Someone has to be first
There are indeed places where we have no CPMs – yet. The number and diversity of places for which we DO have CPMs increases each year. Just a few years ago, I could count 10-15 CPMs. This past year I felt pretty confident about 30-35.* But interactions with other CPM trainers and mission leaders indicate that the number is much, much higher. What we know is just a fraction of what God is doing.

“And there are many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25, NASB)

You must assume that God is doing more than you are aware of even when your heart doubts.

Today, we prepare new missionaries going to Asia to expect that CPMs will develop. It’s not hard to create this expectation because we have examples of CPMs there. We have precedent.

But there was a time when there were no CPMs in those places.

 There was a time when there were no CPMs in China, India, and Southeast Asia: someone had to be first.

 There may be no CPM where you live — yet. Someone has to be first. Be that first one!  In the beginning, when there is no precedent, someone has to be first.

Precedent
Fortunately, in some places in the world, we do have precedent for CPMs. These precedents are a great encouragement to believe that a CPM is possible and to provide a model for what it can look like. This is illustrated well in 2 Samuel 15-22.

Now when the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David went down and his servants with him; and as they fought against the Philistines, David became weary. Then Ishbi-benob, who was among the descendants of the giant … intended to kill David. But Abishai … struck the Philistine and killed him … after this there was war again with the Philistines … Then Sibbecai … struck down Saph, who was among the descendants of the giant. There was war with the Philistines again … and Elhanan … killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. There was war at Gath again, where there was a man of great stature who …had been born to the giant. When he defied Israel, Jonathan … struck him down. These four were born to the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants. (NASB, emphasis added)

This is a remarkable record: four giants killed by the hand of David’s followers. Imagine the situation with the first one Ishbi-benob. The giant spots David and rushes toward him, intending to kill David.

But David is not the one who slays him. Instead, Abishai, one of the army commanders does.

Shortly thereafter, another descendant of Goliath, Saph, fights against the Isrealites. David doesn’t slay him either. Sibbecai does.

Later, a descendant of Goliath fights Israel. David doesn’t slay him. Elhanan does.

Finally, the greatest of the descendants fights against Israel. But David doesn’t slay him. Jonathan does.

What’s happening here? How can four men in succession slay vengeful giants when less than a generation earlier, the entire nation of Israel cowered in fear? How did they learn to slay giants?

They had precedent
David showed them how to slay giants; now they had a model and the faith to reproduce it. One after another, these men slew giants that only a generation before stopped an entire army.

That’s the power of precedent. When you have it, you know how to find victory. The precedent gives you a model and the courage to attempt the same thing.

What seems radical today will be commonplace tomorrow. There was a time when CPMs were unusual. Now it seems like everyone is talking about them. That’s the power of precedent.

But what do you do when you have no precedent?

This article was adapted from the final chapter of Steve Smith with Ying Kai’s book T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution (Richmond: WIGTake Resources, 2011), the inside story of the world’s fastest growing church-planting movement. It was first published in Mission Frontiers Magazine.

About Steve Smith: Steve Smith planted a church in Los Angeles and then helped initiate a church planting movement (CPM) among an unreached people group in East Asia. He trained believers in CPM and worked with the International Mission Board (SBC) in reaching Southeast Asian Peoples. Steve graduated to heaven in March 2019

*CPM numbers have since grown.

Read Part 2

Who is Defining the Priorities of Our Church’s Mission Efforts?

Who is Defining the Priorities of Our Church’s Mission Efforts?

by Stan Parks

If we seek to reach the world according to our own priorities then we are doomed to frustration and failure. The Lord desires obedience not sacrifice, so as disciples of Christ we must consider God’s priorities and shape our efforts to be in sync with His will. Based upon the Gospel message and the Commission of Jesus, I believe there are three priorities we should consider:

Missions was birthed in His heart because He is a missionary God reaching out to a lost humanity. The end of missions is the worship of God as is well shown in Revelation 7:9-10 “After this I looked, and there was an enormous crowd—no one could count all the people! They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood in front of the throne and of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They called out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb!” (GNB) In our efforts to obey God’s Commission to us, it is crucial that we prioritize God’s glory. We need to avoid pursuing human-sized goals with human-strength plans but earnestly and continually pray that the Holy Spirit will empower us to be vessels for God’s glory.

The goal of missions is to see the Body of Christ birthed and expanded within a people, tribe, nation, language and/or place. Ministry that does not see local churches birthed is often valuable, but until these church “communities of faith” are established and extended, the goal of missions has not been reached. However, this goal is not an end in itself, or the church becomes guilty of breaking the first commandment. The newly established church must be encouraged and taught that it is their mandate to reach out within their own group and beyond to the entire world. However, when we speak of growing the Body of Christ, we do not just mean numbers of converts and churches started.

We must ask God to grow the church not just in quantity but also in quality. It is not enough to start churches if those churches are selfish and powerless. The goal is Acts 2 churches being continually transformed by God and in turn serving God in devoting themselves to the Word and prayer and fellowship while sharing the good news, living sacrificially and transforming their own communities and nations.

Is it right that some hear the gospel twice when others have never heard it once? Or some hear it 10 times, 100 times, 1000 times, even 10,000 times when some have never heard it one single time? Evangelism is sharing the good news, while missions is sharing the good news where it is news. There can be no question that while we are called to many good efforts, our priority in world missions today must be those living beyond the gospel. God does not wish that “anyone should perish but that everybody would come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Approximately 30% of the world’s population has no access to the gospel and just as tragically 42.6% of the world’s population are members of “unreached” ethne – those without a culture-impacting indigenous church that is strong enough to reach its own people. 2 If reaching the world is the charge Jesus gave us as His disciples, then we cannot defend the vast sums of money and time spent on ourselves while we pray and go and spend so little to reach those most in need of the gospel. This is not to say that we should only focus on the unreached, because no church can be truly concerned about the unreached without being concerned about the lost around them. But as a worldwide church we find it much easier to prioritize ourselves and those around us at the expense of those with the greatest need for the gospel.

So if your church is seeking to obey Jesus’ mission commission by worshipping and glorifying Him in your words and deeds, a key priority should be helping reach out and start churches among unreached cities, nations, peoples and groups.  That will in turn bring glory to God by their transformed lives and transforming service to their communities and their resulting efforts to bring the good news to other cities, nations, peoples and groups. 

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.

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