Berated for Bringing a Foreign Religion

About two months ago, we told you about Gaden’s village. Here is a report from a more recent trip into the same village.

Joel* and his team of local disciple-makers were back in Gaden’s* village. They were going to conduct some basic health education and screenings, but they were primarily interested in visiting the young Discovery Bible Study (DBS) group. They hoped the group might want to be baptized. 

Instead, the team was perplexed when the DBS people didn’t want to be seen with them. They kept walking away and avoiding conversation. Something had changed.

That night the local disciples quietly visited one of their houses. But the young man’s mother, Metog*, berated them for bringing a foreign religion into their village and involving her son in their “corrupt work.” The team left dismayed but praying for God to intervene.

The next day, Metog saw something unusual happening in a nearby courtyard. As she approached, she saw a nurse checking a neighbor’s blood pressure. Metog, too, needed medical attention. Approaching Priscilla*, one of the disciples she had scolded the night before, Metog asked if the nurse could come to her house for a private check-up. They agreed to come. 

In the course of the check-up, Metog’s behavior completely changed. She declared that Priscilla was now like her own daughter and said Priscilla should be sure to stay in her home the next time she visited!

When Joel’s team visited the following year, they found the group of young people once again studying the Bible. “We have shared this Scripture with the whole village,” one exclaimed. “Everyone has heard it!”

READ ANOTHER STORY FROM JOEL

You can dispatch more compassionate disciples like Joel and Priscilla!

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Rediscovering God’s Heart and Vision

One of the most beautiful aspects of working toward movements of disciples who make disciples (a Disciple Making Movement) is the joy of taking other believers back to the Word to rediscover God’s heart and vision. All too often, the meaning and significance of Scripture get taken for granted, simply overlooked, or never applied.

But what a joy to open the Word with sincere brothers and sisters and ask, “What does God want to tell me through this Scripture, and how will I obey?” Those simple questions — those remarkable thoughts — have changed many lives already!  

Take, for example, the simple verse 2 Timothy 2:2:And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (NIV)

What do you notice about that verse?  Did you catch the number of people mentioned at each step along the way: “of many witnesses . . . people. . . others”? They are all groups!  What does that indicate? Have we overlooked something important about discipleship?  What would happen if we focused on discipling groups rather than individuals? 

We are inspired and given new ideas when we go to God with his Word and then purposefully understand, apply, and obey it!

 

We Walked as He Parted the Waters

Having recently visited three villages, Charlie* and Sarah* were excited to hear that nearby areas had enthusiastically received the new Jesus Film in their language. 

“We knew we needed to join what God was doing by taking the Jesus Film to the people we had visited and beginning to look for persons of peace,” Charlie said. So they gathered a team and got permission to camp on the village beach for just one night.

On the way, they visited a spiritual landmark commemorating the arrival of Islam exactly 400 years prior. They also learned about a strange phenomenon where a strip of land forms during low tide, allowing passage across the ocean on dry sand to reach their destination. 

“We sensed God telling us to walk across the sand as He parted the waters,” Charlie says. “Just as God delivered the Israelites from 400 years of slavery, we knew He wanted to deliver the people from 400 years of bondage to Islam. We prayed Exodus 14 and 15 as we walked over the dry sand, then we watched the waters cover the sand as we arrived on the other side.” 

A young village chief and his father, the local mosque’s imam, were the first to see the video. As it began, the chief’s jaw dropped, and his eyes widened. “That’s our local language!” he exclaimed. A few hours later, a counselor at a neighboring village school had a similar reaction. “That video was amazing!” 

During their visit, the team collected many phone numbers, left copies of the Jesus Film to be shared, and found out about other villages to visit for future ministry. They praise God for the opportunity to proclaim His name in places that have never before heard the name of Jesus.


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They Burned Their Amulets

Disciple-makers Rafi* and Nabila* regularly travel by motorbike through thick jungle to the home of an elderly Muslim couple. They first met Iqbal* and Tasya* while passing out food supplies at the start of the pandemic. 

Since then, Rafi and Nabila have made the two-hour trek several times to visit the welcoming couple. Though they speak different dialects, they share who Jesus is through Bible stories of His power over nature, sin, and death. Then the couples discuss what is revealed about God in the Word. 

During their latest visit, Rafi and Nabila shared stories from the Gospel of Mark about Jesus’ ability to heal, and His power and authority over demons. As a result, Iqbal and Tasya said they believed that Jesus had the power to protect them from evil spirits. Furthermore, they wanted to let go of the amulets they had trusted in for protection. 

So they burned the amulets, and Iqbal and Tasya prayed on their own with their beginners’ understanding  — huge steps toward becoming disciples of Jesus!

Pray that our team can find a translation of the Bible in this couple’s heart language. And join us as we pray: “May the God of hope fill [Iqbal and Tasya] with all joy and peace as [they] trust in him, so that [they] may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

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Give Up Your Way: A Key Component of Disciple-Making

Joyo and Anita, national partners of James and Sharon, were ready to move. Together the couple had sought the Lord on where they might live to be most effective in making multiplying disciples. And the Lord had answered.

They felt led to move to a new area and start a ministry that would open the region to the gospel for the first time. By seeking the Lord themselves, the couple was honored and able to “own” the discovery that the Holy Spirit had given them. 

Through persons of peace, Anita has since started four groups that are using the Discovery Bible Study method. And a second generation of seekers has already been formed!

This is a key component of disciple-making movements: Only when leaders like James and Sharon humble themselves, trust the Father, and fully release younger disciples to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit can we see the plan and the fruit the Father has in mind. 

As Jesus taught in Matthew 16:24, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” James and Sharon have seen it first-hand, “Death to self and submission to life in Christ is always a great idea.” 

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Ask, Apply, Obey

A few years ago, Joel* and his team of local disciple-makers entered a Himalayan village. They looked for people with whom they could pray prayers of blessing, and perhaps find someone interested in hearing a story or two from the Bible. 

Soon a young man named Gaden* approached them. “Are you guys Christians?” 

“Okay,” Joel thought, “This could be really great, or we could get asked to leave.” 

“I had a friend who was a Christian teacher here,” Gaden continued. “He told me some things, and I have a lot of questions.” 

The team listened to his questions. They answered some, but quickly said, “Can we just tell you a story? We’d love for you to hear directly from Scripture what it means to be a follower of Christ.”

Gaden was excited to hear the Scripture in his own language, not just in the national language. He gathered two other young couples together to study the Bible.

Since this village is a multi-day trek into the mountains, Joel and his team can’t visit often. So they gave the group a Bible app preloaded with Bible stories. After listening to a Scripture passage, the group would answer questions to help them apply the Scripture and obey what they learned. 

Since that first visit, the team has been back multiple times. Some challenges have arisen, but we can be assured God will use this study. He declares that His word “always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

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“I Would Be a Christian if I Could”

A fruit vendor named Seng* lit up when she realized Trisha* could speak Thai. Seng peppered her with questions: “Where do you live? How long have you lived here? Are you safe?” Trisha answered, then asked about Seng’s business. Seng admitted that she had very few customers.

“I will pray to God,” Trisha said, “and ask for His blessing on your life. I will ask God to protect you.” When Seng’s face brightened at this, Tisha asked if she went to church.

“I am a Thai person. I must be Buddhist.” Seng replied. “But my sister-in-law lives in Germany. Her husband is German, so she can be a Christian.”

Looking at some nearby taxi drivers, Seng quietly confessed, “If I could choose, I would be a Christian too.”

“If you want to know more,” Trisha responded, “God says we can know Him by reading the Bible. I can show you how! Then, He can help you decide whether to follow Him or not.”

Through spiritual statements and questions, Trisha discovered Seng’s spiritual hunger and invited her to discover the truth of who God is. Pray Seng would be willing to read the Bible and become a follower of Jesus. 

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A Family Affair

Harto* is a Muslim man who encountered Jesus through a discipleship process with Shawn*. Harto was interested in becoming a disciple of Jesus and was even considering being baptized.

Then Harto’s family found out about his studies. He has not met with Shawn since they found out.

Harto’s story illustrates why it is so important for seekers to bring their family and friends to hear what the Bible says about Jesus. That way, no one is removed or ostracized from their closest relationships. Instead, whole relational groups (oikos) explore together. 

And it’s biblical! The book of Acts records over 30 instances of people becoming followers of Jesus; only three describe a person coming to Christ as an individual. In all the other instances, a large or small community became followers of Jesus as a group.

If a person’s oikos is not willing to engage with the Bible, the seeker should show love and be patient, letting their testimony be a witness of God’s goodness and power to save.  

This is why movements are often slow to begin but can then experience rapid growth as entire families come to Christ. 

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From Religion to Stories of Jesus

One day, Karly* and Allison* went to the park to meet people. When they arrived, they saw their Muslim friend Yasmin* who introduced them to some women she knew. “These are my friends Karly and Allison. They study the holy books and the prophets.”

Then Yasmin shared a story about Isa (Jesus). This prompted one woman to remember that her son had asked about Jesus. He had seen videos on YouTube and TikTok about the end times, one of which included a story about Isa. As a result he became very afraid and could not sleep. She and her husband also became troubled. “We sent our son to study more religion so he might understand and not be afraid.”  

Suddenly, one of the women turned to Yasmin. Motioning toward Karly and Allison, she asked, “Who did you say these women are?” 

Yasmin told the women they should talk with Karly and Allison if they wanted to study stories from the holy books. 

“I want to know the stories,” one woman said. “I know Jesus will come, but I don’t know how.”  

Later Karly and Allison talked with this woman. “When are you coming again?” she asked. “Next time, come to my house so we can study the stories.”

Obedient disciples can train reproducible groups to study the Word from the start. Spiritually hungry people immediately learn that, no matter the setting, they can hear what God is saying to them because the Holy Spirit is their teacher. As Jesus said in John 6:45, “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.” 

Pray that these women will meet Jesus as Karly and Allison obediently model how to learn from God’s Word directly from the Father Himself.

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Going Above and “Beyond”

– By Chris McBride and Dave Coles 

A 24:14 Interview with Beyond CEO, Kent Parks

Recently I sat down with Kent Parks, the CEO of BEYOND, to talk about what is happening with the agency he leads. I had seen a chart of the work that BEYOND has done over the last few years, and I wanted to ask about how COVID-19 affected Beyond’s work globally, and to celebrate the growth with him.


Kent, how would you characterize the growth that Beyond has seen during the pandemic?
You can download Beyond’s full annual report 
here

These numbers are directly from movements that our staff are actively catalyzing and currently serve. All credit goes to the Lord and the inside leaders and the churches they are reproducing.

A quick story: one movement’s core leadership met in January of 2020 for prayer. They discerned from the Lord that they were supposed to start 60,000 churches in 2020, an increase of over 100% from the previous year! However, in March, severe lockdowns were implemented. Because of this change, they reevaluated their goal. In the online meeting, the group quickly agreed, saying: “The Lord knew this was coming when He spoke to us in January. Yes, this is what we must do!”
 
Well, a year later, this goal has come to pass! God has done it! They more than doubled. 

In 2020, we saw people making disciples at great risk to themselves, in great poverty, and [under the] threat of illness. Because the process was part of the DNA of how they were discipled, they continued making disciples, because that is what God called them to do.

When you looked at the statistics for 2020, were you surprised?

We were thrilled!  We had reported 610,000 disciples in 2019 and now 1,278,000+ in 2020, with  similar growth in churches. 

Because we know these patterns of reproduction work, however, we were not really surprised but celebrating. Disciples and churches are doing what the Lord has called them to do! People are reproducing disciples. Our response was a mix of emotions, from “not that surprised” to “can you believe this?” 

Do you think that the growth happened despite the pandemic, or do you think the pandemic played a role in the growth?

I think the pandemic brought an increase. Another movement leader we are friends with said, “The Lord stopped the world.” That was his description of how people were suddenly able to have conversations, where before they had been too busy. Out of a great disaster…people not able to work meant many were not able to eat. And Jesus’ church rose up and fed them in the midst of great poverty.

Like many organizations, we channeled some funds through Beyond, but it was not nearly enough. The disciples did what they could to keep feeding people, prayed for the sick to be healed, and kept making disciples. It was in the pandemic and disaster that we found growth.

What counsel would you give other agencies as they try to align themselves for future fruitfulness?

You need to have a process that is immediately reproducible and immediately deep. One place to start is, “How did Jesus do it?” How is it that one year after Jesus’ death, they had [Kent’s low estimate] 30,000 baptized disciples? And Jesus said that we will do greater things than that? I used to think Jesus was exaggerating when he said, “You will see 30, 60, 100-fold fruit.” Now I have met some of the heroes of the faith who are doing that. 
 
At Beyond, we even try to structure our internal financial and leadership processes (as much as possible) to replicate what we want to see in movements. If we want leadership to reproduce, we need a process that can be immediately imitated. 

So in every part of leading an agency, we have to break it down with a “what is it going to take?” focus. If we want to be somewhere in ten years, we have to break down the goal and see what kind of multiplication it will take to achieve that goal. 

We have to constantly evaluate what we are doing based on the goal.

How can agencies like Beyond collaborate together in the 24:14 Vision to see every people and place engaged?

One of the best collaborative things agencies can do is to ask existing movement leaders, “How can we help?” not, “Here is our toolkit.” At least 80% of movements have been started by other movements. One of our best roles is to help existing movements grow and multiply. 

We need to look at the goal with a “what is it going to take” mentality. Then our efforts are multiplied because we are working toward the same goal.