What is the Place of Women in World Missions?

by R. Nyman

“What is the place of women in world missions? Jesus said, ‘You [and the word means all of you, male and female] are my witnesses. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.’ And there have been countless thousands who, without reference to where they came from or what they knew or who they were, have believed that Jesus meant exactly what he said and have set themselves to follow. —Elisabeth Elliot

One joy of my life is coaching and mentoring women for effective engagement in launching movements to Christ. Yet often, I discover missed opportunities surrounding the role of women.

Sometimes I hear: “I felt called to the field. I came with a passion to labor alongside my husband. I don’t want to take over. I just want to be involved! Yet my organization only makes CPM training and coaching available to men. Now that we have children, I get the subtle message that my only job is supporting my husband and caring for our kids.”

Single women have shared: Men leave us out of strategy discussions. We don’t have a lot in common with women on the team who have husbands and children, and when we talk about ministry, some moms seem jealous that we have “time” for ministry.

I see this repeatedly: Husbands and wives come to the field to make an impact, yet when the wife doesn’t feel she is contributing, this may become a reason the couple goes home.

And the problem goes deeper. A local colleague told me, “Please tell Western women not to come if they aren’t going to make reproducing disciples. When they don’t, they model disobedience to the Great Commission!”

In many cultures, men can’t interact with women. Often, especially among Muslim UPGs, women are gatekeepers for their households. Who, if not women, will seek out Women of Peace to open their oikos to the gospel? And as new movements emerge, who will equip first-generation women leaders?

Regarding equipping missionary women, I sometimes hear mission leaders say, “We don’t want to burden women or make them feel guilty.” Is the best solution to not equip them for multiplication? Isn’t it better to help women follow Jesus in ministry appropriate to their season of life and prepare them to help launch a [movement]?

Will the global mission community make stewardship of missionary women a priority? Will we equip missionary women with competence and confidence to be and do all He calls us to be, especially as catalysts in launching CPMs?

How can the Body of Christ best steward missionary women? How can we support, inspire and equip them to thrive and bear multiplying fruit in all stages of life?

Why Focus on CPM?
Kent Parks, President of Act Beyond, notes that today there are twice as many people with no access to the gospel as there were in 1980. In 1980 there were “only” one billion unevangelized. Today that figure has risen to 2.1 billion!

This unjust trend requires that we do something differently.

And we can! Since the days of Jesus and Paul, the Church has repeatedly grown faster than population growth through movements – with women playing a key role. The 1900s offer extraordinary instances of movements in China and Korea fueled by women missionaries. 

Women as DMM Practitioners
All of us (men and women) are to delight in and declare God’s glory, developing intimacy with God. Out of the overflow of this intimacy, we are to “be” and “do” in Christ and seek to reproduce Jesus in others. For all who follow Jesus, reproducing disciples is a privilege as well as a command.

Essential CPM elements include: extraordinary prayer, searching out persons of peace, discipling groups of new believers, and equipping leaders. We need missionary women as well as men for these tasks.

Being a wife and mother is one of my greatest joys and privileges. In highlighting points of engagement for women in CPMs, I don’t at all mean to suggest that women short-change their God-given roles as wives and mothers. For me, life is integrated: more like a woven tapestry than distinct compartments.

Regardless of their stage of life, the vast majority of female missionaries with whom I have interacted passionately want to have eternal impact. May this article [first published in Mission ] help them do so.

This article was first published in Mission Frontiers, it was edited with permission.

Bible Study in the Mosque

Four ulamas (Islamic theologians) visited a community with a growing number of culturally Muslim Jesus followers. Having heard concerning reports, the ulamas decided to investigate. 

Dowad*, the community’s leader and a new disciple of Jesus, brought them into the mosque where the local followers frequently study the Bible. There, one of the ulamas spotted a copy of the Injil (New Testament) in their language.

The ulama picked it up. “What is this?”

“This is what we study and follow!” Dowad answered. 

“Don’t you study the Qur’an?”  

“We can’t read the Qur’an,” Dowad responded, “but we can read and understand the Injil.” 

The ulama read some verses. “This is different and very concerning!” 

“What is so concerning?” Dowad asked. “Have you seen our community? Have you seen how many people worship, pray, and fast? Do you realize that in our community when one person is sick or dies the family doesn’t worry because everyone helps them? And do you realize that other communities come to us with their conflicts because our community helps make peace? Here. You can each take a copy of the Injil and read it. Then come back and talk to us.”

Praise God! Dowad has a firm foundation in Jesus, and he speaks with the authority Jesus gives his followers. 

*pseudonym

“Your Home Would Pollute Me!”

Raj*, a high caste Hindu man, hated that his low caste neighbors worshiped Jesus with friends in their home. Intent on stopping them, he convinced all the neighbors to join him against them. However, even through the persecution they continued to meet.

One day, the couple asked him, “Why are you against us?”

I am a high caste Hindu,” Raj said. “I don’t want you in my village.” 

Without knowing us, you are against us,” the wife said. “Only if you see our work can you judge properly.” 

“Entering your lower caste home would pollute me.” 

“We will give you a chair so you can sit outside and watch through the doorway.” 

So Raj went. When the gathering ended, he no longer hated them. Rather, he was so impressed that the next week he brought his wife. They sat outside. At one point, Raj’s wife asked for prayer for her knee. The church prayed and her pain disappeared. Later, they studied the crucifixion story. Raj and his wife had never before heard of a God who died for people. After the others left, they stayed to hear more about Jesus. 

Six weeks later, Raj and his wife received baptism along with seven other families they brought with them—107 people in all!

Raj declares, “I used to be so bad toward the disciples. They always responded to me graciously. Now I will share the Word [with others] like they shared with me.”

*pseudonym

Baptized in an Irrigation Canal

Amisha led five women in reading prophet stories from the Bible: a good way to introduce the Word of God to Muslims. Participants then share the stories with their family and friends, and obey lessons God impresses on them during their time together.

Three of the women have had visions of Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah). In the dreams, He had instructed one to forgive her husband and encouraged another by confirming that she was studying His Truth. The third had a simple yet profound vision of being embraced by Jesus!

Before long, all five women became followers of Isa. Amisha baptized them in the irrigation canal of a nearby rice paddy.

Amisha is a layperson who has been trained in Disciple Making Movements and longs to hear and obey Jesus. All six women are in the process of learning to become reproducing disciple-makers. 

These women were the first in their families to come to Christ. Pray as they engage their husbands with the Word of God and encourage their spiritual leadership. This process can sometimes be messy, but it is so important in bringing the whole household to faith. 

Thank you, BEYOND donors, for the role you played in this story!

*pseudonyms

30,000-50,000 New North Indian House Churches

In 2012, Ethan and Nicole began to focus solely on disciple-making in North India. They have seen abundant fruit. 

“By God’s grace alone,” Nicole says, “we think that roughly 100,000 families have become disciples of Jesus. We stand amazed.”  In 2020 alone, they estimate that 30,000 – 50,000 new house churches were birthed. How do we know these were churches? 

It’s simple: The poor are fed, widows and orphans are cared for, the sick are healed in Jesus’ name. People are prayed for in the name of Jesus. Demons flee. Disciples are made, and they reproduce. Those disciples reproduce and launch churches that plant churches. And it goes on and on, just as described in Acts 2:42-47. That is how we know they are churches.

A report of impressive numbers, though, is just a snapshot of the Holy Spirit’s work. These numbers represent new followers of Jesus who are living new lives. 

In a recent newsletter, Ethan and Nicole shared: “Every day in these new churches we see:

  • Husbands stop beating their wives and begin to spend their income on family needs instead of alcohol
  • Wives and daughters are accepted and honored as equal
  • Families freely share with their neighbors during times of need
  • Individuals practically and wholeheartedly love former enemies — regardless of caste, religion, or political leaning
  • House churches fund literacy projects and micro-enterprise efforts in their communities
  • Miraculous healings and deliverances

To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! (Ephs 3:21). 

BEYOND donors, you have been a part of this life-changing news!

*pseudonyms.

God at Work During the Pandemic

by Jon Ralls

Amid a pandemic and uncertainty, God is still at work. His Spirit is moving all around the world.

As people have been home, at times alone and with questions, many are seeking answers to the challenges and emotions they are facing. One place they are turning to is the internet. The number of people online – searching Google, watching YouTube videos, commenting on Facebook, and more – continues to rise. The increase in social media users increases opportunities for social media ministry and discipleship.

God is truly opening doors.

From One Comes Many
Azzibidiin answered an evangelistic ad he saw on social media. He was connected with a local disciple-maker named Bishara who enthusiastically shares the gospel with anyone who will listen. Through Bishara, 300-400 people have come to faith. Though persecuted, he keeps his hand to the plow and is currently discipling and equipping Azzibidiin for ministry.

You Are Not Alone
For college students in one Asian region, God opened a door to the gospel through video clips from the Jesus Film used in a social media ad campaign. One student said, “I thought I was the only person feeling so lonely during the pandemic, yet I hear of you Christians and your love for us.” This student was not alone in hearing the love of Christ. At least three people have accepted Christ after responding to these ads.

One ad campaign asked, “What kind of prayer would you ask God to answer?” Hundreds of students replied: “God, please forgive me.” “God, please help me with things that make me afraid.” “God, please bring me someone who understands and loves me.” “God, please show me what choices to make.”

The Unreached Reaching Out
Social media is allowing many in unreached areas to connect with those who can share the Good News. For example, a Facebook ministry page gained more than 1,800 followers from an unreached group in Southeast Asia. Local Christians have been connecting with those interested in the gospel, and at least one person has already been baptized.

 Not A Coincidence
Through targeted ads and organic (non-paid) content, people are hearing about Jesus. In a country that is 99.9% Muslim, a team received this message: “Everywhere on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube I always came across things about Jesus . . . I don’t think this could be a coincidence. I wonder if … I can believe in Jesus. I wonder if I can see a miracle.”

 Extraordinary Times and Tools
Since the beginning of the Church, people have been sharing the Good News. Today, we have the tools to reach distant locations 24 hours a day.

Digital outreach does not replace living a missional life, but it allows for a radically different ministry paradigm. Seekers are reaching out to Christian workers who can converse with them (both online and offline), which can ultimately lead to a disciple who makes disciples.

Not A Magic Bullet
Digital outreach is not a magic bullet. We cannot just run a paid ad and expect thousands to be saved. Much strategy, training, and thought are needed to best leverage digital opportunities. But with those in place, this powerful tool can be used for God’s glory and the advance of his Kingdom.

Several ministries offer coaching and provide resources for Christian workers using social media. 

A few are: Media to MovementsThis team equips disciple-makers in media strategies to identify and engage seekers who accelerate movements of reproducing disciples. They provide coaching and mentorship from the first steps through ongoing outreach. mediatomovements.org 

Kingdom TrainingThis group has been doing digital outreach for years and has several excellent courses to help people get started. kingdom.training 

Mission Media UMMU is a mentored, online training platform designed to help Christ-followers be more effective in making disciples and establishing churches by using media, story, and innovative technology. missionmediau.org/foundations-of-media-strategy 

Kavanah MediaHelps mission teams and churches find seekers in their context. Specializing in training, media creation, management of campaigns, and coaching, they work with ministries to make the most of their advertising budget. They have a weekly podcast: “Christian Media Marketing.” kavanahmedia.com 

This article was shortened and used with permission from the author, it was first published on 2414now.net

Engaging the First Seekers

Hari*, the local partner of BEYOND field workers, was exhausted and ready to walk away. He was thankful for his job in the coffee industry, which allowed him to pursue his passion to see God glorified in his country and provided for his family. But Hari was tired.

He did not waiver, however. He stayed focused on God and His vision for those with whom Hari worked. His relationships with workers opened the door for him and his wife, Dewi*, to pray with families and share truths about their Source of peace and freedom from fear.

Thankfully, following a busy season of harvest, processing, and distribution, families enjoyed a slower pace of life and the ability to connect at a deeper level. 

In January, one family showed interest in learning more about the peace and freedom that Hari and Dewi spoke about. The father agreed that his whole family should explore these things together. 

Through the Holy Spirit’s work in this village, three families are now discovering biblical truths together!

Please pray for the Father to draw people in and teach them from His Word. May the message of the Kingdom spread throughout this village and into surrounding areas.

Thank you, BEYOND donors, for being a part of engaging the first seekers from this village!

*pseudonyms

Using the Qu’ran to Talk About Jesus

Kersen* grew up as a Muslim but became a follower of Jesus. After learning how to use verses from the Qu’ran to talk about Jesus, he found his high school friend, Ajij*, to share what he had just learned.

Soon they transitioned to studying about Jesus and the prophets. As they studied, God began to open Ajij’s heart, and he was drawn to Jesus. Ajij started sharing what he was learning with his wife.

“You can’t study those stories,” she said. “Those are stories from the Injil (the New Testament), and that book has been corrupted.” 

Ajij mentioned this to Kersen. Using verses from the Qu’ran, Kersen showed that even the Qu’ran said the Injil had not been corrupted

Because Ajij continued studying about Jesus, his wife thought seriously about divorcing him. But she began to realize that Ajij was becoming a kind man. He took care of her and led her. “Why would I divorce a man like this?” she thought. So she began to be open to stories about Jesus. 

Before long, Ajij and his wife came to faith and were baptized! They shared the Good News with their parents. So far, three of their parents have come to faith in Jesus Christ, and they meet together as a house church. 

BEYOND donors, thank you for being part of this Kingdom growth.

*pseudonym

Women and Vision Casting

by Erika Parks

If you really wanted to do something better, and could study under the world’s leading expert, would you?

In the past few years, workers tired of seeing few results in hard places desperately went back to learn from Jesus. Through His Bible and His Spirit, they learned biblical “secrets” for how He cast vision and gave strategies for not just making a few disciples, but for launching Disciple-Making Movements in order to make disciples of all nations (ethné ). Are you desperate enough to see all peoples reached that you would change major parts of what you do, in order to reach that goal? If so, consider how Jesus cast vision.

First, Jesus modeled how to be a disciple that the Father could use. Some examples: He modeled prayer. He broke “religious” people’s expectations for the sake of reaching people. He modeled going to households rather than inviting people to synagogues. He modeled how to live the “love and obey” (shema) lifestyle[1] of Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

Laura traveled over 10,000 miles to prayer walk among her focus unreached people group (UPG). Susi was a new believer from that UPG. Laura invited Susi to join her. Susi learned about prayer walking and spiritual warfare. Amazed, Susi said, “I have never walked and prayed for my people. But I will from now on!” Since then, Susi has launched many reproducing disciples and an amazing prayer movement. Laura modeled, and Susi learned and passed it on.

Second, Jesus showed how to completely follow the Father’s heart and end-vision for all ethné  He equipped his ordinary disciples to focus on His strategy. His process produced obedient disciples who immediately became the harvest force. As He left, He told them to follow His model among all nations by teaching people “to obey everything I’ve taught you.”

Grace, an Asian artist from a UPG, became a true believer in Jesus. She soon met Lynn, recently trained in Jesus’ discipling plan. The Spirit led Grace and Lynn to hold an art exhibit designed to foster spiritual discussions. They cast vision—and believers shared invitations to the exhibit and chatted and/or prayed with attendees. The spiritually interested were visited and invited to study about God with their family or friends. Today, people in this UPG are studying His word in new Discovery Groups. Vision casting multiplied the number of workers who seek People of Peace.

Third, Jesus modeled being an outside catalyzer (spark) who starts disciple-reproducing fires through simple ways that do not depend on the outsider. These new disciple-makers depend solely on the Spirit and His Word.

Donna was invited for further training after learning these discipling paradigm shifts. She knew it was more important that her three local partners catch this vision. Donna prayed, and God provided the funding for them to be trained together. These four made needed ministry changes to follow these biblical strategies. Donna didn’t know that God had plans for her and her new husband in other places. But the DNA for reproducing disciples continues in that local team and the reproducing disciples they are training, thanks to Donna and her vision for them.

Do we women see ourselves as disciple trainers or vision casters? Busyness and the challenge of living among the unreached might make us think we can only reach and disciple a few women. But that’s not what He asked of us.

Trainings are often primarily for men. Recently, a trainer working in a culture where women are not highly valued invited women to join the training. The next day, many came. At the end, the trainers emphasized “Now, you women must go and make disciples, too! Go and obey what you have been taught! Pass it to others!” And they did! They rejoiced that women are highly valued in God’s plan. They have discipled multiple households into becoming reproducing disciples.

Women can pass on this Great Commission DNA. We can teach those we disciple to be obedient, loving, and reproducing disciples. God wants spiritual generations from these disciples, in the same way that He wants that from us.

Thus, we joyfully invite them to raise their own spiritual children and grandchildren into generations. God has called women to be Spirit-powered disciplers, harvesters and vision casters. He is an end-vision Father; Jesus is the vision-casting Savior, and the Holy Spirit enables workers to complete His vision. Faithful is the One who called us — both male and female — and He will do it! (1 Thess. 5:24)

[1] Shema Lifestyle—Intentional statements and actions that give a glimpse of the reality of who God is and how He desires to draw us to Him. Around the world, the top way DMMers find those interested in God is by serving them (with healing prayer, kind deeds and community service) while consistently pointing to God in culturally appropriate ways.

This article was first published in Mission Frontiers, it was edited with permission.

How the Bhojpuri Church Planting Movement has Started Other Movements

by Victor John

God is working in amazing ways among the Bhojpuri speakers of North India, with a Church Planting Movement of more than 10 million baptized disciples. God’s glory in this movement shines even brighter against the backdrop of this area’s history. Many religious leaders were born here. Gautama Buddha received his enlightenment and gave his first sermon in this area. Yoga and Jainism originated here as well. 

In the past, this region was incredibly hostile to the gospel, which was viewed as foreign. It was known as “the graveyard of modern missions.” When the foreignness was removed, people started accepting the good news.

But God does not want to reach only Bhojpuri speakers. When God began to use us to reach beyond the Bhojpuri group, some asked, “Why don’t you stick with reaching the 150 million Bhojpuri? Why don’t you stay there until that job is finished?” 

My first response is the pioneering nature of gospel work. Doing apostolic/pioneering work involves always looking for places where the good news has not taken root: looking for opportunities to make Christ known where He is not yet known. 

Second, these languages overlap in their usage. There’s no clear-cut line where the use of one language ends and another begins. Also, believers often move for various reasons. As people in the movement have traveled or moved, the good news has gone with them. 

Some came back and said, “We see God working in this other place. We would like to start a work in that area.” We told them, “Go ahead!” 

So they came back a year later and said, “We’ve planted 15 churches.” We were amazed and blessed because it happened organically. There was no agenda, no preparation, and no funding. When they asked what was next, we began to work with them to help the believers get grounded in God’s word and quickly mature. 

Third, we started training centers which expanded the work, both intentionally and unintentionally (more God’s plan than ours). Sometimes people from a nearby language group would come to a training and then return home and work among their own people. 

A fourth reason for expansion: sometimes people have come to us and said, “We need help. Can you come help us?” We assist and encourage them as best we can. These have been the key factors in moving into neighboring areas beyond the Bhojpuri. 

We praise God that the movement has spread to different language groups, different geographic areas, multiple caste groups, and different religions. The power of the good news keeps breaking through all kinds of boundaries. 

 While these movements are led indigenously, we continue to partner together. We recently began training 15+ Angika leaders in Eastern Bihar in holistic (integrated) ministry. We plan to help start holistic ministry centers in three different Angika locations in the coming year and raise up more local Angika leaders. Our key partner working among the Maithili is also extending work into the Angika area.

Victor John, a native of north India, served as a pastor for 15 years before shifting to a holistic strategy aiming for a movement among the Bhojpuri people. Since the early 1990’s he has played a catalytic role from its inception to the large and growing Bhojpuri movement.

Excerpted with permission from the book Bhojpuri Breakthrough. (Monument, CO: WIGTake Resources, 2019) .