The Great Commission: Not a Job for Experts Only

“How are you doing at making disciples? Are you teaching them to obey what Jesus commanded?” 

These questions were asked of Phillip’s group as they participated in a Phase One Disciple-making movement training, and they really challenged him. 

“If I answer truthfully, I don’t know how I am doing at making disciples. I work at a Christian missions organization. I volunteer at my church. I spend time with my Christian friends. These are all good things, but they don’t leave much room for connecting with lost people.”

Far too often we place the responsibility for obeying the Great Commission on professionals. We believe it is for them to do. We illustrate this belief when we say things like: “I am just not gifted in evangelism.” Or, “I don’t know enough about the Bible.” Or, “I don’t want to offend anyone.” All excuses are just excuses.

Phillip says, “I am thankful for the Phase One training, because it shows me how to be open about my faith. If the task remaining was left only to Christian ‘professionals,’ Christianity would soon fade away.”

Beyond’s Phase One program helps everyday, ordinary Christians begin living out their faith openly and effectively. Our goal is to equip believers to be confident and competent in making disciples wherever they are. That way, if the Lord calls them to other nations, they will have already learned biblical principles of making multiplying disciples in their own culture.  Thus they will be all the more ready to learn  how to make disciples in the new cross-cultural setting  where they will serve.

When 3+2=27+300

Thank you for your donations that provide training to make disciples.

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. As we do we will see His wonders – Sauls become Pauls, Simons turn into Peters, and Sons of Thunder change to loving servants!

Your financial gifts take the gospel to where it has never been, and this generosity is transforming lives and whole villages!

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The Night of Power and the Infidel

The Night of Power, an especially holy night near the end of Ramadan (the Muslim month of fasting), had arrived for Rahmad. 

His neighborhood mosque received many guest speakers on this auspicious night. As he waited for the next speaker, Rahmad wondered how his acts and prayers became exponentially more powerful on this one night.  

Strangely, his mind wandered to a foreign man he’d recently met. Weren’t all foreigners — especially Westerners — considered infidels? 

His mosque had instructed that infidels should never be allowed to enter the homes of the faithful. From his imam’s cautionary admonitions, Rahmad also understood that no teachings other than those from the Qu’ran (or other Islamic sources) were valid. Yet, when speaking with this foreigner and his Indonesian friend, Rahmad observed a distinct difference between what he had been taught and what he had seen. 

Rahmad remembered how the foreign man dared to broach an unthinkable topic: “Have you ever considered that God has revealed truths of His kingdom that He desires mankind to discover? I am praying that God will lead my friend and me to people who want to study the Taurat, Zabur, and Injil [roughly equivalent to the Torah (Pentateuch), the Psalms, and the New Testament] so they can know and understand God’s heart and His kingdom ways. Are you one of those people? Is your household searching for God’s path?” 

Rahmad’s soul tingled with the memory. He and his family had been meeting with the men for the last few weeks. They had discovered powerful truths while studying prophets from the Old and New Testaments. Perhaps on this holy night, God would guide him with divine wisdom to the truth.

*pseudonym

Global Movement Dashboard

by Justin Long

For nearly a decade, I have gathered information on a new trend: rapidly multiplying church-planting (or disciple-making) movements. For the past five years in particular, I have condensed this information into a single “dashboard” presentation—sometimes delivered as email, and sometimes as a PowerPoint. The latest version was just released on the 24:14 Network’s website (under “Global Movement Statistics”) and the following is a summary of the findings I normally present when sharing in public.

Since the mid-1990s, we have witnessed the remarkable and explosive growth of disciple-making movements globally, with much of that growth happening in the past 10 years. From a very small handful of known movements in 1995, the number has grown to over 1,850 movements globally, encompassing over 99.9 million believers in 6.8 million churches (typically small, house-church type gatherings). This means over 1% of the world’s total population are Christ-followers in rapidly growing movements!

These numbers are the tip of the iceberg—or, as I frequently say in presentations, the “floor” and not the “ceiling.” Certainly, the numbers are higher than this. These movements can be found in every UN region, though their largest numbers are in Africa and parts of Asia (mostly Southern Asia). Movements have spread broadly, touching each of the Affinity Blocks identified by Joshua Project and over 222 of the 271 People Group Clusters. Growth is especially significant in the world’s least-reached places.

Movements are touching every religious block, growing markedly among Muslim and Hindu peoples, with progress also among some Buddhist peoples. While we have so far seen less progress among Western groups (Europeans, North Americans, and Australia-New Zealand), this may be largely due to the fact that movement-style work is much newer in those regions. Burgeoning movements are already happening among a few Western people groups, showing it can work there too.

However, in many places, this remarkable growth is still a just drop in the bucket among the much larger populations. The well-known Bhojpuri movement, for example, is one of the largest in the world, and yet still a relatively small (though rapidly growing!) percentage of the provinces in which it is found. Much work still remains to be done.

The 24:14 Network’s goal is to see a CPM engagement team in “every people and place” by 2025. How close are we to that goal? COVID-19 has made information gathering difficult in 2020 and 2021, but I estimate there are at least 170 languages that are less than 2% Christian and not engaged by CPM/DMM teams. They should be a priority for movement efforts. Likewise, I estimate there are at least 458 provinces that are less than 2% Christian and are not known to be engaged. If CPM teams can be focused on each of these priorities, we will be very close to reaching the overall goal.

Our great God is doing amazing works in our time. We look to him in earnest prayer, with strategic effort and global partnership, keeping our eyes on the goal of Jesus’ glory filling the whole earth. Engagement of every people and place is our initial faith goal; our ultimate aim is fulfillment of Matthew 24:24 – proclamation of the gospel to all peoples (ethné), and the glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

About the author: Justin has spent the last 30+ years developing and contributing to various missions efforts including: the World Christian Encyclopedia, the strategicnetwork.org, the Ethné network, and the Movements Database. His research findings and missions articles have been published in several places, and currently publishes a weekly newsletter at justinlong.org.

 

Living Out Loud

Grace* had recently returned to Southeast Asia when she was flagged down by a familiar face: Her house helper’s husband ran across a busy street to greet her. He insisted that Grace sit at his sugarcane booth to wait for his wife to arrive. Soon Grace and Bi Indah* were seated on a bench, talking about life, family, and gifts from God.

As they talked, many curious people came over to engage Grace in conversation. One man asked about her religion. When she answered that she followed Isa, Bi Indah spoke up and told him how that was different from their usual understanding of “being a Christian.” She explained what it means to follow Jesus, how Grace stayed pure, and how Grace’s faith looks different from that of other Christians Bi Indah had met.

“At that moment,” Grace says, “I realized that most of the things she said weren’t things I had told her, but rather things she had observed. I don’t get to choose how God uses me, but I delight in the fact that God can and will use our daily obedience to draw people to Himself.”

Grace obeys God’s word both in what she says and the way she lives. It shows her love for Him. As a witness, Bi Indah is already sharing what she has learned from Grace about following Jesus, even though she herself is not yet a disciple.

*pseudonym

God is Sweeping through South Asia

The “Walker” family began cross-cultural work in 2001. In 2006, they joined Beyond and in 2011 started applying CPM principles. They were joined by “Phoebe” in 2013. Phoebe and the Walkers moved to different countries in 2016, and have been supporting the movements from a distance.

Before the Church Planting Movement (CPM) began in our area, our two national partners were full-time Christian workers in the nation’s heartland. Both had a heart for God’s kingdom, but CPM was far outside their paradigm.

After attending a two-week CPM training, we became intentional in taking the next steps toward catalyzing a CPM, eliminating all non-essential ministry efforts. Our new approach included:

  •  personal obedience (a shema witness for Christ and searching for people who would open their households to the gospel)
  •  increased prayer
  •  casting vision to existing believers to partner in this endeavor
  •  training interested Christians
  •  receiving coaching from those ahead of us.

In July 2012, one of our partners gathered 15 men from various districts. We began meeting for 1.5 to 2 day trainings, roughly once per month. Most were Christian-background believers, while a few were Hindu background believers. As many began applying CPM principles, they quickly saw fruit. Our national partner was the head coach and cheerleader for this group.

  •  By December 2012, there were 55 outreach Discovery Bible Groups, all consisting of lost people.
  •  By December 2013 there were 250 groups (churches and Discovery groups).
  •  By December 2014 there were 700 churches, and an estimated 2,500 baptized.
  •  By December 2015 there were 2,000 churches, and an estimated 9,000 baptized.
  •  By December 2016 there were 6,500 churches, and an estimated 25,000 baptized.

Through this process, here are a few of the many lessons we learned:

  1. Matthew 10, Luke 9 and 10 offer an effective strategy for connecting to lost people.
  2. Miracles (healing and/or demonic deliverance) were a consistent component of people coming into the Kingdom.
  3. We simplified the Discovery Study process multiple times. We also transitioned our training style to using just the Word, rather than others’ tools and methods.
  4. We emphasized loving obedience to Jesus and everyone passing on the training. We found it better to go deep in empowering those who were applying CPM principles, than to focus on doing more trainings.
  5. As outsiders, our role was to point out when the work was following tradition rather than the Word. This could only be done with cultural sensitivity and growing trust, not as an attack.
  6. Focus on reaching households, not individuals.
  7. Use Discovery Bible Studies (DBS) for both pre-churches and churches.
  8. Rechargeable inexpensive speakers with story sets on memory cards were extremely helpful, empowering illiterate and semi-literate people to plant churches through listening to scripture. Roughly half of the churches have been planted through the use of these speakers.
  9. Leadership circles provided sustainable and reproducible mutual mentoring for leaders.
  10. Intercessory prayer was a critical part of the strategy, but so was listening (listening prayer) for God’s direction on strategy decisions.

The movement has consistently reached 4th generation in many places. In a few locations, it has reached the 18th generation. This is not just one movement, but multiple movements, in four+ geographical regions, multiple languages and multiple religious backgrounds.

By the Walker Family and Phoebe

This article was first published in Jan-Feb 2018 Issue of Mission Frontiers

Missions in a Dangerous World: Missiological Myths vs. Biblical Patterns

Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that life will get worse with all kinds of natural and human disasters. People will be handed over to be persecuted, hated by all ethne, and even put to death–because of Jesus. Many will turn away from faith in Jesus and betray and hate each other. Due to this overall increase in wickedness, the love of most believers will grow cold. Not a nice picture, eh!?

He then says, “AND in the middle of all of that mess” (rather than saying BUT or “in spite of”), two related things will happen: 1) he/she who stands firm to the end will be saved; and 2) this Good News of the kingdom will be shared publically in the whole world as a witness/testimony to all ethne, and then the end will come!

In other words, all people groups will be given the “Jesus option” before the end comes in the middle of all the turmoil, not in spite of it.

Waves of persecution have happened throughout history. They are nothing new. Two main responses have occurred: 1) believers get upset and surprised when it happens and tend to advise each other to lie low so maybe they will not be targeted; and, 2) some believers become wisely bold and still innocent and pure in motivation. This latter group have discipled many during these periods, though often at great cost.

In the mid-1980s, about half of the mission force from all organizations in Indonesia were kicked out of the country. Many who remained or who had just arrived realized a new urgency and took bold new steps to make disciples. Today, in several major countries, workers are under severe government scrutiny or getting kicked out. What will be the correct response: will we succumb to missiological myths or follow biblical patterns?

Myth 1: The safest place in the world is in the center of God’s will.
Many interpret this to mean physical safety: that, if one is faithful, one will not suffer or certainly not die. Another version is “Mission can be done in a safe way if we are careful enough.”

Biblical Pattern–We will suffer while in the center of God’s will: Jesus was in the complete center of God’s will – and He was killed. In fact, He knew he would be killed and He risked His life willingly. See 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 where Paul and his team were under pressure beyond what they could endure, despaired to the point they felt like their death sentence had been passed – but in that terrible situation, learned to depend on God.

“Let’s be real. Suffering for Jesus will cause real pain, grief, despair, injustice tragedy, etc. Let’s be “real-er.” All is worth it when we see reproducing disciples arise.”

Myth 2: If we are careful with our identity,
have a good business platform, avoid “missionary” identity, use very good electronic security measures, etc., the governments and religious authorities of the world will let us continue to work and we might be effective.

Biblical Pattern—Being bold witnesses even when watched by the authorities: People already know who we are and are watching us – so we might as well be wisely public. We want to be wise (and not get persecuted for being stupid), but we must not allow the powers of this world to convince us we must lie so low! No one who is so careful has been known to catalyze a movement to make disciples.

We are told “when (not if) we are called before … the authorities” we should not worry about how to defend ourselves or what to say because the Spirit will teach us at that time what to say! (Luke 12:11-12).

Not only are we to continue to share under the threat of death, we are to rejoice when we are found worthy to be disgraced for Jesus. In Acts 5:27-29: “The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’ Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!'”

The authorities were furious and decided to put them to death. Gamaliel convinced them not to kill them, so they just flogged them (!) and again commanded them not to talk about Jesus. And did they stop!? Not a bit. They never stopped teaching. They taught day by day. They did it publically in the temple courts and household to household. They rejoiced, they were counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the Name (Acts 5: 40-42)!

Myth 3: We, the outsiders, can escape suffering.
if we are careful enough, and still effectively help our local partners learn that they must be prepared for suffering

Biblical Pattern—Modeling willingness to suffer for Jesus is essential: We are rightly concerned when groups we help start do not multiply. Often, a reason given is that everyone in the culture is suspicious of others and also hesitant to make disciples. Could another reason be that we are not modeling a willingness to risk arrest and suffering for the sake of the Gospel?

Let’s be willing and bold to risk in genuine humility: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Myth 4: We will not be able to launch a movement unless we live in the culture.

Biblical Pattern–Mission Catalysts must be willing to be on the move: While it is valuable to live in and among our focus people, God often calls for His apostles (another term for movement catalysts) to be in an area for a while, stay in contact, but keep moving. Paul and his team were only in a key province about two years (Acts 19:10) and then were led to keep moving. Many “non-residential” missionaries (a pioneering term for what we might now call movement catalysts) have been used of God to catalyze movements from nearby cultures or locations.

Friends of God

In India, God continues to rescue Banjara people from darkness and mobilize them for His Kingdom! In the process of learning their value before God, their lives change dramatically. Before following Jesus, they have no hope, believing they deserve only to live among trash and sewage, unable to rise above their station. But when they become children and friends of the King, they learn that God has provided work for them to do, and they joyfully do it!  Five months ago, Mr. and Mrs. Jothi turned their backs on their idols and committed themselves to following Jesus while attending a Discovery Bible Study group. Though poor and illiterate, they have since birthed eight churches among other Banjara families. The new disciples in those churches all recently took baptism.

One of the baptized men is the village head in a nearby area. His whole family worships idols, but he told Mr. and Mrs. *Jothi, “I [also] want to do the work for this God.” He has faith that one day all 37 families in his community will become followers of Jesus.

Pray for more Banjara people – and those from other people groups – to discover the God who gives them dignity, and calls them His children and His friends.

Thank you for supporting new disciples like Mr. and Mrs. Jothi. Hundreds are rescued from darkness every month through your faithful partnership!

*pseudonym

I Have Been Waiting for You

Through your generosity, lives are being transformed each day as men, women and children encounter Jesus for the first time.

Following the Spirit’s leading, Rebecca and two friends she was discipling brought supplies to some poor communities after a flood. They asked God to multiply the harvest through their small outreach.

In most villages, God directed them to the homes of the community leaders. The team asked them to distribute the goods to the families in need. This allowed for more time to build relationships with each leader and his family. Each man welcomed a story about Isa (Jesus), allowed a prayer in His name, and invited Rebecca’s team to return.

In one community, however, they had a different entrance — their car ran into a ditch near a village of trash collectors. As they dealt with the car, they noticed a woman staring intently at them, so they stopped to visit. The woman and her sisters ushered them into their home and began talking about the flood. Suddenly, one of their daughters had a demonic manifestation. 

Rebecca and her team were allowed to pray for the girl in Isa’s name. When she calmed down, they asked if the women wanted to hear a story about Isa healing the sick. They listened eagerly, exclaiming “Amin!” at several points. As their conversation continued, the matriarch asked, “Are you the three mentioned in my dream?”

She explained that her husband had died four months previously, and each night she prayed that God would see her and her children. Then one night, she dreamed that a man stood before her. He told her God cared for her and her family and that three visitors would soon come whom she should welcome into her home. 

She was confused. Who would visit her home in the trash yard? She asked her son, a Muslim cleric, about the dream. He said to wait and see what happened.

When the widow saw Rebecca and her two friends get out of their car, she became very excited. “And there the three of you now sit in front of me. You are strangers, and you prayed over my daughter and brought a blessing. You must be the ones I have been waiting for.” 

Rebecca asked if they could return another day to share more stories about Isa. All the women agreed they should come again. “We will be waiting.”

In a city with scores of people groups, God led this team to their focal people group at each stop. The two newer disciple-makers were especially encouraged and excited by their first-hand encounter in ministering alongside our Father. 

On behalf of families like this one that have now witnessed the power of Jesus and the unstoppable gospel, thank you! 

Bearing Fruit in a Radically Different Culture

What is it like to be among people who don’t speak your language, whose beliefs and worldview are radically different from your own?  

Last year John*, one of our partners and a movement leader in India, visited a Muslim area in eastern India to see if anyone was open to hearing stories of Jesus.  

John felt uncomfortable, though. The men had beards and wore traditional clothing – evidence of conservative Islam. They didn’t speak Hindi, and he didn’t speak their language.

But God led him to a man named Benju* who could speak Hindi. They agreed to meet the next day. Benju said he would bring friends to hear about Jesus. John prayed for people to come and have ears to hear. 

The next day Benju arrived with about 12 people. They had heard of Jesus before, but they had no idea how to follow him. They asked many questions. John was amazed and excited. 

Since that first visit, Benju and all of his friends are moving toward saving faith in Christ. They have received ongoing training and coaching, and are facilitating Discovery Bible studies in their homes. They have asked John for Bibles in their language and are growing in their understanding. 

God is growing His kingdom through humble, sometimes even fearful, followers like John who follow God’s command to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

*pseudonym