Sheep Make Sheep – What?

Sheep Make Sheep – What?

In Matthew 9:36-38, we read that Jesus told His first disciples the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. He then stated His solution to the problem: pray for God to thrust out His children from their own places into the fields that are ripe for harvest. The harvest is ready. It just needs laborers to bring it in. 

We have heard these words before. In fact, they get repeated so often that it’s easy to miss their importance. In 2011, movement catalysts *Ethan and *Nicole began to wrestle with this description of the harvest. “Was Jesus right? Is the harvest actually plentiful?” They had to admit they believed the opposite: “A plentiful harvest, Jesus? Really? Lord, if only You knew how things are in this place! People aren’t interested in You or Your Kingdom.”  

They started to ask themselves some serious questions: “What if the bottleneck isn’t, in fact, with the lost but with us, His children? With me, His child?” They searched the Scriptures, asking the Lord to show them what they were missing. He showed them two things:

First, they read the parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15 with new eyes. In the story, the Shepherd doesn’t hang out with the found sheep. He goes out looking for the lost one. Ethan and Nicole asked themselves: “Who are we in this story?” Every time they had previously read the parable, they had put themselves in the position of the lost. But the truth is, Jesus had found them a long time ago. They were safe! So, where’s the shepherd? He’s out looking for the one who’s lost. 

Ethan and Nicole knew they wanted to be out with the Shepherd. The question was, practically, what would that take? For them, it meant freeing up schedules. They were so busy doing Christian things with Christians that they didn’t know many people who weren’t Christians. They realized they needed to stop spending so much time in the church. It was time to actually go OUT. If that’s where Jesus was, they wanted to be with Him there.  

Second, a simple statement from a dear friend engaged their hearts. He said, “Sheep make sheep.” What?! They stared dumbfounded at him as he explained, “Shepherds don’t make sheep. Sheep make sheep, naturally.” They realized that they had spent many years and much effort training shepherds (pastors, church leaders) to go make sheep. But, if sheep make sheep, then they needed to rethink everything.

As they searched the Scriptures, they were amazed to see how quickly Jesus equipped and released sheep (His disciples) to go and make other sheep, including those who knew little-to-nothing about Him, who came from ugly backgrounds or who had little-to-no education (e.g. Mark 5:19-20; John 4:28-30, 39). 

So, they changed their tactics. They began encouraging sheep to make other sheep, starting from their first encounter with Jesus and His Word. They said it like this: “Truth is not to be hoarded, but shared. With whom can you share this Bible story we studied today? With whom can you share your story of all Jesus has done for you?” 

They found that when new “sheep” were encouraged, even expected, to freely pass on to others all they were learning, they multiplied themselves. And it happened quickly. In one year, they made disciples of Jesus who made disciples, who made more disciples, seven times over.

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Desperate to Know

Desperate to Know

Ali* is a poor carpenter from a large Muslim Unreached People Group in Asia.

He wondered why his religious leaders never discussed their second greatest prophet — Isa Al Masih (Jesus the Messiah). They rebuked Ali for repeatedly asking about Isa. He asked his construction boss (who was a Christian deacon) about Jesus — and was refused every time!

Ali’s ethnic/religious group and his boss’s group dislike each other. Riots had caused businesses in his boss’s community to burn. He suspected Ali was faking interest to generate accusations of Christians forcing Muslims to convert.

For two years, Ali begged people to tell him what Jesus taught!

One night, a man in white appeared to Ali in a dream. When he awoke, he immediately biked for an hour to his boss’s home. It was 3:00 am when his sleepy boss opened the door. Ali blurted out, “Tell me about Jesus!” He finally received a gospel tract.

When Ali was later asked what had led him to follow Jesus,  He cried and said: “Jesus looked down from the cross and forgave me! He said, ‘Father, forgive him, because he does not know what he is doing.’ And He was right! I did not know what I was doing, but he forgave me anyway!”

Who knows how many hundreds or thousands of people are like Ali: eagerly longing for the Good News, many of them desperately. Would you consider how you might contribute to serving the unreached – whether through prayer, joining a team, or providing financial support? 

*pseudonym

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The Best Hope for Reaching Frontier Peoples

The Best Hope for Reaching Frontier Peoples

by Stan Parks

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations (i.e., ethne)—whole populations united by culture, traditions, geography, and languages. What does it mean to disciple an entire people group? 

Today, we see an unprecedented move of the Holy Spirit around the world where God starts and sustains church planting movements (CPMs). These movements involve multiplication: disciples making disciples and leaders developing leaders, resulting in indigenous churches planting churches. These churches begin to spread rapidly through a people group or population segment. Although these new disciples and churches have typical human failures and weaknesses, God uses them to begin transforming their communities. 

They become new manifestations of Christ’s Body living out kingdom values. Consider that out of 7,000+ unreached people groups (UPGs), almost 5,000 are frontier people groups (FPGs are UPGs with less than 0.1% Christian). Exponential multiplication is clearly the only way to reach the billions of people in these groups. 

Thankfully, these UPGs and FPGs are not isolated communities needing 7,000 or 5,000 separate gospel efforts. These groups are interrelated through language, culture, geography, religion, and kinship. The Joshua Project identifies 269 people clusters containing all 17,286 people groups globally. The 123 still-unreached clusters contain 7,250 UPGs. Reaching one or more UPGs in a cluster can create leverage to reach the remaining UPGs.

For example, the Bhojpuri CPM leaders were not willing to limit their efforts to the 100+ million Bhojpuri speakers. God has used them to impact millions of others by catalyzing CPMs in eight neighboring language groups and five major cities in North India.1 All over the world, we see not only disciples making disciples and churches birthing churches but also movements catalyzing movements. 

As researchers study the amazing work of God in 1,965 currently known CPMs with 114+ million disciples,2 they have discovered a critical truth. Not only are movements the fastest way God’s kingdom is growing in our day; they are also the source from which most new movements are springing up. Only about 10% of existing movements were started by a catalyst(s) from a far-distant culture who found an inside catalyst(s) to plant the first churches.3 The vast majority of current movements (approximately 90% of them) were started by believers from other near-culture movements. Some used the term “hot coals” to describe this spread as a metaphor for embers from an existing fire being used to start fires in a new location.

Some have asked, “How can we motivate these CPM disciples to reach FPGs?” In reality, they are far more motivated (and sacrificial and effective) than are many Westerners. Our role as the global Body of Christ should be to learn from them and serve them as they lead the way in reaching FPGs.

These CPMs around the world have been so catalytic that the currently listed 1,965 movements are reported by only 40 movement “families.”4 For example, “Family 1” has started multiplying churches in 768+ languages. “Family 2” is multiplying churches in 157 of the 320 UPGs in their region with plans to begin reaching the remaining 163 UPGs in the next few years. “Family 3” is impacting 73+ UPGs with efforts to reach an additional 50+. “Family 4” started 12 years ago and serves 400+ UPGs with 4+ generations of churches, another 130 with some fruit, and an additional 400 UPGs they need to reach

As these movements launch into new groups, we recognize they are having a greater impact on the FPGs than we realized. Research from the 24:14 coalition of movements shows the following information.

This information creates a clear strategic delineation. 

For category #1, we need to ask the movement leaders how best to assist them, either in beginning work or expanding already existing work. Category #2 is typically more challenging, so we need to ask how we can work together to bring “hot coals” to ignite responses among FPGs in a different country.

For category #3, we can inform movement leaders and disciples of the need and see if any respond to go to a new group and then help them as much as possible. If that does not happen, our best approach would be to work with both movement leaders and outside movement catalysts to mold new catalysts from anywhere in the world. We then work together to help them catalyze pioneering efforts into the gaps. CPMs are well positioned to reach the FPGs for several reasons: 

  1. Bible as foundation

Disciples in CPMs take Scripture very seriously. Everyone is expected to obey God’s Word. God is the foremost teacher (John 6:44–45). Disciples know they are accountable for obeying the Word. This emphasis helps to avoid importing outside biases and traditions into the new work. The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to guide new disciples into all truth. The good news bears fruit in ways natural to each culture yet rooted in the Bible.

  1. Prayer

A church planting movement is always preceded by a prayer movement. CPMs are also marked by prayer, being “prayer movements” in and of themselves. New disciples know what it means to live in darkness. They also know that God is the only one who can break the bondage. So, these disciples realize the need to pray and to multiply prayer in others. 

  1. Ordinary people

One striking aspect of CPMs is the role of the “ordinary person.” CPM DNA can be passed from an existing movement to a new movement. God’s work is not restricted to trained professionals. Instead, the Holy Spirit uses ordinary people to share the gospel, cast out demons, heal the sick, and multiply disciples and churches. Brand new believers are powerfully bringing the gospel to new places. They are ordinary people filled with the Spirit of an extraordinary God.

  1. Groups not individuals

 In Acts, we see households and even some whole communities turn to the Lord. Likewise, we are seeing the same dynamic in today’s movements. Most of these movements are happening among UPGs, who tend to be much more communal than Westerners. In these cultures, decisions are made by the families and/or clans. Collective responses to Christ can make a rapid impact in reaching new families and clans.

  1. Empowering others

 Leaders in CPMs are focused on reproducing new leaders, not the number of their own personal followers. They seek to empower people to reach others, training new leaders and delegating responsibilities. Just as Jesus said his disciples would do greater things than he did, healthy movement leaders equip their spiritual children and grandchildren to surpass them. 

  1. Business for kingdom advance

House churches are led by volunteers rather than professional clergy. Everyone is a minister and church offerings go to help the poor and share the gospel. Major funding is not needed because the churches do not have special church buildings or staff. However, they sometimes do need funds to take the gospel to new areas. Sometimes funds have come from the outside as the global Body of Christ helps the movements reach into new people groups and places. However, receiving outside funds is increasingly challenging in many unreached countries due to growing government surveillance and restrictions. In recent years, many movements have started kingdom-focused businesses that can fund ongoing pioneer efforts. 

Clearly, movements with hundreds or thousands of churches yield many of the best laborers to spark similar movements among FPGs. As a global body, we should prioritize resourcing and serving CPM disciples. They are the best hope to reach the millions of people in the remaining FPGs.

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.

This article was first published in Mission Frontiers March/April 2024 edition | Seeking Movements Among Frontier People pages 27-29. It was used here with permission.

Making Disciples Despite Their Grief

Making Disciples Despite Their Grief

In January, tragedy struck a team in North India as they lost a key leader to a sudden brain hemorrhage. His passing left behind not just a grieving wife and young children, but also a network of approximately 1,000 house churches. Many of these house churches include people from esteemed Hindu backgrounds, including Brahmin, Thakur, and Kshatriya castes. Despite the immense loss, the team came together in February to plan how to best support these churches and nurture the new leaders within them.

Among those who stepped up to the task is *Shakuntala, a remarkable woman who participated in a gathering for women leaders in Delhi, last October. Little did the North India team know then that she would become such a pivotal figure in the team’s journey forward. While the absence of the leader who passed is deeply felt, the team is unified in their determination to continue the important work that he began.

Shakuntala has helped cultivate eight generations of believers, and she is also mentoring 12 emerging leaders. In a recent testimony, she described her joy in sharing Bible stories with people from diverse backgrounds, including Thakur, Pandit, Yadav, and Dagar. She attributes their embracing of Jesus to God’s grace and the dedication of her team of leaders, who tirelessly spread the Good News and make disciples in various communities.

In a touching audio recording from a recent mentoring session, Shakuntala led a discussion on the parable of the sower from Matthew 13:3-9. She urged her fellow disciples to emulate Jesus’ method of teaching through parables. She emphasized the importance of connecting with people through relatable stories, which foster deeper understanding and connection, rather than merely preaching at them. 

Shakuntala earnestly requests prayer for the women under her mentorship, their families, and some specific challenges they face: “Please pray for these dear sisters and their households. Pray for one of the woman who relocated her daughter to another city to continue her study. Pray for the daughter as she studies in that city. Pray that they have enduring faith. Pray that we will continue to make more disciples.”

*pseudonym

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A Dream of a Man in Dressed in White

A Dream of a Man in Dressed in White

Sue spent a couple of days with a young woman, Burcu, who had been trained in Disciple Making Movements.  Burcu wanted to serve in some way. 

Together Sue and Burcu shared Scriptures and Bible stories with Zehra, the owner of a hair salon who showed interest in learning more about Jesus. Zehra had been through a lot of challenges and rough times in her life, but what piqued her interest in Jesus was mainly the hypocrisy she sees in the majority faith in her country. Zehra is searching for truth and love. On hearing the stories of Jesus, Zehra had many questions which Burcu answered eloquently. Sue marveled and was encouraged by how well Burcu answered Zehra’s questions. 

Shortly after they had prayed for Zehra, she reported that she had had a peaceful dream of a man dressed in white who tenderly and gently touched her. Sue is looking forward to what the Father is going to do next in Zehra’s life. May she be like the Samaritan woman at the well who ran to tell everyone about her encounter with Jesus.

Please pray for deep wisdom for Sue on how to move forward in her relationships with both Burcu and Zehra. Pray that the Spirit would be powerfully upon both women, bringing people of peace to their respective workplaces. Pray that Burcu would start Discovery study groups among the people in her neighborhood.

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