Is Downsizing Ever Better?

Is Downsizing Ever Better?

A BEYOND team member attended a training in a large East Asian country. The 16 trainees were leaders of various Discovery Bible groups that had started in the past year. These trainees had belonged to a growing church in the city.

The church, however, had recently come to a startling revelation: the more the church grew numerically, the fewer disciples they made. Their focus on excellent preaching had failed to produce any real lifestyle changes in their church members. Additionally, they found that as the church grew, they had fewer new believers attending. Their desire to grow numerically actually made them less effective as a church.

In a bold move, the church leaders decided to structure the church to once again meet in small groups. They trained leaders in the Discovery Bible Study group process and ensured all their members attended a small group. 

Shortly after they made this decision, government officials demanded they shut down their large Sunday meeting place. If this decision had come a few months earlier, it could have been disastrous, but these leaders saw God’s hand in the timing of these events. They decided that it was confirmation of God’s will and leading. They would not seek another place for their large meeting. Instead, they would continue meeting as house churches and use the new Discovery Bible Study process.

Pray that God will spur churches to evaluate the true purpose of the Church. Ask God to equip bold leaders like these as they move to fulfill the true purposes of the Church.

 

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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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He Taught a Communist Rebel to Study the Bible

He Taught a Communist Rebel to Study the Bible

Two years ago, Ethan and Nicole* led an introductory disciple-making training in the Philippines with 14 seminary-trained pastors. Honestly, they had doubts about the outcome. Would traditional, denominational pastors be willing to go outside the walls of their church, outside the walls of their own traditions, in order to obey Jesus’ command to go (not invite)? 

Sure enough, months later, they’d barely heard a word from any of the participants. Then, nearly a year after the training, Jacob, one of the pastors, contacted Ethan. “I am mentoring a group of young pastors in Manila,” he wrote. ”Would you and Nicole spend a few days with us, doing what you did last year?”

After praying together, they decided Ethan would hold the training with Alex, a BEYOND colleague who lives in the Philippines. After the training, Alex could coach those wanting to apply what they’d studied. 

Since then, Ethan has occasionally wondered if anyone was applying the training and, if so, how it was going. In May, he received an encouraging email from Jacob.

“Three months ago, “Pastor G” taught a former Communist rebel how to study the Bible in his home with his family. He has been doing this for several weeks. Last week, the rebel’s son became severely sick, to the point of death. The father remembered the story of the woman who touched Jesus and the story of Jairus’ daughter. At his son’s death bed, he prayed, “Lord, we surrender our son to you if this (his death) is your will, but can you please heal my son as you have done for this woman and for Jairus’ daughter? 

His son immediately sat up and asked for water!

Thank you for this life-changing experience (the training and coaching). Today, our group has 45 non-Christian families studying the Bible in their homes.

Alex adds that since March, when the COVID-19 lockdown started, Pastor G’s church has transformed into eleven house churches, and it is still growing! They have many more people involved in these house churches than they had in their “building” church before the lockdown.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.” Jacob and these pastors are discovering the joy and fruitfulness of simple obedience to Jesus. The Lord is building his church among the nations (the ethnic groups) of the earth! “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him” (Ps. 22:27). Hallelujah! 

*pseudonym

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Do You Go Beyond the Four Walls?

Do You Go Beyond the Four Walls?

Learning the basics of Disciple Making Movements requires a paradigm shift for pastors of well-established denominational churches. The idea of reaching lost people more effectively by going outside the four walls of the church is daunting. Choosing to go to the lost instead of to invite them into church buildings can be a challenge!
 
But in the Philippines, Alex* continues to coach twelve traditional church pastors in disciple-making principles via Zoom calls. Says Alex, “It’s as if the Lord has blown down the four walls of many of their churches.”

There are now over 70 house churches among this group of pastors! During this time of pandemic restrictions, they have answered the Lord’s call to go. They report that more people are hearing the gospel and being discipled via house churches than when they invited people to church and followed their normal routines. Two of the pastors have 35 and 15 house churches respectively! Another was called before the community “captain” because one of his groups exceeded the community’s present pandemic restrictions. They have since multiplied to become two house churches!

Praise God for moving His Church into the world — and growing it — during this present crisis.

*pseudonym


The Power of the Simple Story . . .

The Power of the Simple Story . . .

The gospel is unstoppable and uncontainable: like a river, it flows despite obstacles and barriers. It penetrates the hard-to-reach places, seeping in because the spreading of the gospel has nothing to do with man and EVERYTHING to do with God. In this story from the field, our team in South Asia give us a glimpse of how the gospel continues to spread despite persecution and resistance.

Soma sent us a couple of voice messages last week. One was a recording he took of a conversation he had had with a leader who has been with us almost since the beginning. This man was part of the second group we ever trained. Only two men from that group applied, but–oh, what fruit they have borne! So many generations!

At some point this year, this brother was forced to leave his home. The Hindu radicals in his village simply ran him out. Here’s a brief summary of that conversation between Soma and the leader: Radical Hindu groups are forcing their way into Christian homes, searching for Bibles. They threaten the people when they find something. They also bring cameras with them and take photos of the Christians in the homes. Discovery Bible Study is proving to be really powerful because it is so simple. But, we must continue to keep it simple. People must just learn the Stories, then the method gets passed along. People must memorize the Stories, instead of carrying a Bible. [In other words, the whole thing must be done orally or with speakers, not with actual Bibles.] When these radical groups find no Bibles, they treat the people better. How great it is to simply discuss a Story, even without a Bible!

I did not hear defeat in their voices. They were just stating the facts while declaring that the Work is continuing/will continue. Hallelujah! It’s a precious thing to realize illiterate followers of Jesus know more Scripture than we do. They’re memorizing the Stories because they have to! We are also praying about how to get more audio speakers (hand held devices with select scriptures and story sets) distributed. Historically, we’ve paid for Bibles and audio speakers from the same fund. Right now, that fund has dropped to the lowest it’s ever been. We’re not sure what that means. Are we to stop buying Bibles because owning one causes trouble for people? Having a speaker in their homes seems to be more innocuous. So, is it time for us to raise more funds to purchase as many speakers as we can? We invite you to pray with us for this.

Join us in prayer for these innovative and resourceful leaders. Pray that we will be able to raise funds to buy more speakers and pray that like a mighty, unstoppable river, the Good News of the gospel will continue to flow despite the opposition and persecution.