Ten Characteristics of a Book of Acts Church

Roh’s* parents came to faith and were baptized, but Roh wasn’t around when her parents studied the Bible. She is 15 years old and had been spending lots of time at a friend’s house. In Indonesia, girls her age often get married, so Anisa,* a national colleague of Beyond’s field leaders, met with Roh to express her concerns. She invited Roh to study the Bible with her. 

God used his Word to open Roh’s heart. She became a follower of Jesus and was baptized.

Pray for Anisa as she disciples this household to apply the ten characteristics of a healthy house church, as seen in the early church in Acts. A group covenants to follow Jesus together. They are baptized and study and obey God’s word together. They fellowship together and care for one another in many ways, including through the giving of offerings. They celebrate the Lord’s Supper, worship, and pray as a group. They live out a commitment to share the gospel with non-believers. As the church develops, caring leaders are raised up from among the group.

Pray this family would be joined by others and become a church that would birth similar churches for God’s glory. 

*pseudonyms

Destruction and Imprisonment . . . What Happened Next

Two weeks ago, we shared about the imprisonment of some North Indian believers. Here is an update.

Fourteen men and women were arrested as they prayed. All were members of families whose homes were burned last year by local Hindu extremists. Why were their homes burned? They had recently become followers of Jesus. The families stayed with relatives in surrounding villages for a while, but, fully aware of the risks, they all decided to return.

As of August, they had rebuilt their huts in the village. This time, radical Hindus went one step further. They got local police to join them and barged into a home during a prayer meeting. The police destroyed the home while the disciples were dragged into waiting vehicles. Police jailed all 14 and demanded extortion for their release.

Twelve disciples were quickly released, and, as of September 9th, all 14 were home with their families. Other churches have gathered around them, providing food and helping to fix the house that the police wrecked. Glory to God! Thank you for praying! Please keep it up! Pray that everything that has happened would actually serve to advance the gospel. (Phil. 1:12)

Burnings, Imprisonment, and Extortion

About one year ago, some house church leaders in North India had their homes burned to the ground. They are facing difficulties again. 

A few months after their homes were burned, all the families moved back and rebuilt their huts. Last week, a local Hindu extremist group joined forces with the police, damaged their rebuilt homes, and arrested fourteen people. 

Two are still in jail. The police are demanding extortion to release them.

However, we have reasons to rejoice! In the midst of very real persecution, the church continues to advance! Sanjay, a leader in the movement, recently read through old diary entries from the first movement meetings in 2012. He had written, “God, give us North India.”

We praise the Lord for the big vision of these committed disciples! Today, the work has spread to nine states and over 200 caste groups (people groups). Thousands and thousands of families have become strong disciples of Jesus, working to make more disciples of Jesus. 

Pray for our brothers and sisters to remain attached to the Vine, and for their joy to increase even in the midst of their persecution. Pray our Father will bring forth much fruit that the devil cannot snatch away.

*pseudonyms

An Invitation They Couldn’t Refuse

*Karly and her roommate, *Julie, went back to visit the vendors at the fruit stand. Earlier, the young women had shared some Old Testament prophet stories with them, and they had been eager to hear more.

However, when they returned to share another story, the couple only wanted to debate. Karly and Julie disappointedly bought their fruit and turned to leave.

A man who had overheard their conversation followed them as they left. “Would you come to my house?” he asked. “We need to clean our minds with this kind of talk. Come and tell that story to the women at my house.”  The roommates looked at each other.  They were tired but this was the kind of invitation they prayed for. They couldn’t refuse.

Later, as Karly and Julie shared the story, the ladies served tea and freshly roasted peanuts. Everyone discussed the story, then the roommates prayed for those who were sick. They exchanged phone numbers to keep in touch.

Pray for this family as they encounter the truth of Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah). Pray too for Karly and Julie as they obey the Holy Spirit’s promptings concerning this new family.

*pseudonyms

Shanti: A True Person of Peace

*Hannah had just moved into a 12 story apartment building when one of the two elevators stopped working. At first, she was annoyed. But soon, the Lord showed her how many people she was meeting right after moving in. 

One was a single mom named *Shanti. They ran into one another about once a week and chatted about Shanti’s kids. One day, Shanti said, “You see my problems, don’t you?” Hannah learned that Shanti wasn’t a single mom. Her husband had all but left the family, and the burden to support their four sons was on her shoulders. 

Through Hannah, Shanti has heard the Good News many times. She is not yet a Jesus follower. She carries hurt from a brother who became a Christian and began treating the family very poorly. How different his family’s lives could have been if he had brought them into the Kingdom as he was first learning! 

Hannah, however, feels the Lord wooing Shanti and sees signs that she’s softening to his call. As a potential person of peace, Shanti has already opened the community in the building to Hannah. Pray God would move mightily and draw Shanti and the entire community to Jesus. 

*pseudonym

A Holy Discomfort

Andy* is a young boy who lives in Thailand with his mom, dad, and new brother, Micah. 

His parents recently told him that many people had been praying for him since before he was born. They had prayed he would follow Jesus at an early age. Now they were praying the same thing for baby Micah. Andy knew for certain that he wanted his brother to be in heaven with him one day.

As his parents continued talking, Andy became very disturbed by the idea that some people he knows and loves, who don’t follow Jesus yet, won’t go to heaven. The idea took root in his heart for the first time. 

He was brought to tears when he realized some kids at his school don’t know Jesus yet, including one of his best friends, Prem. His parents told him that was the reason they had moved to Thailand. “As followers of Jesus, Andy, it is our job to pray for people’s hearts to be open to Jesus and to share Jesus with them.” 

“While the moment was emotionally hard,” Andy’s mom says, “it was beautiful as well. To watch his young heart understand in such a personal way was truly a gift. Having a face to pray for is much different from talking about a large group of people.” 

Lord, stir up a holy discomfort in all your followers concerning those who will not be in heaven with us. Billions of people can’t say yes to you — they’ve never heard of you! Break our hearts with this reality, Father. May we boldly share the glorious news of YOU with those around us. Call us to the nations for your glory. Amen.

*pseudonym

Seven Generations of Disciples

In North India, some women have been trained in making disciples. They have been faithful to apply what they’ve learned, and are experiencing joy from bearing fruit. They have also cast a vision for disciple-making in six districts of their state.

One of the leaders of this group, a lovely and gentle woman, recently shared her testimony. Two years ago, she became a follower of Christ. She, her husband, and their children had been idol worshipers. Her family was “broken and terrible.” They had no joy. Her husband drank all the time and beat her. Her children were undisciplined and refused to go to school. 

Then one day, she says, it was as if a light suddenly came on. That was the day she attended a Bible Study in a nearby home. She loved it. After participating in the Bible study for three months, she wanted to start one in her own home. Soon, she and her whole family were baptized. 

Today, through ongoing obedience to the Word and the application of its truths to their lives, this woman and her whole family have been changed. Her husband no longer drinks or beats her. Their children are full of joy. They actively share with others all that God has done for them. This one woman has started nine different Discovery Groups from which have come seven generations of disciples making disciples! 

Jesus promised to build His church and has not forgotten His promise. His Kingdom of love and light is growing in some of the hardest-to-reach places in the world, through simple disciples like these ladies in North India.

The Fruit Vendors Loved Talking About Prophet Stories

Karly was studying Luke 10 with a group of believers in a heavily Islamic nation. They concluded that, as disciples of Jesus, they should be following Jesus’ instructions in the passage. Without bringing everything they might need, they should go out two by two into new places. They should talk to random people to see what God was already doing or would do among them. If invited to stay, they should be ready to bring the blessings of the Kingdom upon those willing to receive them. 

Though it wasn’t a new idea for Karly, she had to confess that it still didn’t sound fun to her. She would rather read a book about church planting strategy. Or write a book about it. Or pray for others to do it. Or teach people to do it. Or… lots of other things. But Karly knew that would be disobedience, and she chose to obey. 

She and her roommate went out and soon got invited to sit down and talk with the owners of a fruit stand. The young ladies ate fresh coconut as the owners demonstrated how to make a local fruit salad. They talked for almost two hours. The fruit vendors loved talking about prophet stories and invited the young ladies to come back and study more from the Bible.

When Karly’s group gathered again, each pair shared a story similar to Karly’s. They didn’t really want to follow the instructions in Luke 10, but they did anyway, and God faithfully led them to various people open to hearing about the gospel. God reminded them of the blessing of obedience.

Inaccuracy, Exaggeration, and Deception

Over 1,035 Church Planting Movements (rapidly multiplying groups that surpass four generations of church planting in multiple streams) have been documented. Together, they comprise over 74 million believers in more than 4.3 million churches. When people hear this, they often ask: “How are they counted? Are those numbers credible?”

 

To start with, why do movements count at all? First, movements emphasize growth, and they want to see if they are growing. Second, counting can highlight problems (identified by a lack of growth) that need to be addressed. Third, they want to know if they are making progress in reaching the lost. Fourth, some movements use this counting for reports to partners for prayer, projects, and funding. In general, three methods are used for surveying movement numbers. Let’s briefly look at them and their counterparts in surveying American churches.

 

Method 1:  Some movements or pre-movements are small enough that all groups, leaders, and even members can be known and documented by a handful of people on a spreadsheet. This is similar in practice to the “membership rolls” of smaller US denominations.

 

Method 2:  Some movements are too large to list everyone. Individual streams, however, can be small enough to do so. The streams add together their numbers to derive totals for the whole movement. This process is similar to the way large US denominations (with churches divided into districts) count their numbers. 

 

Method 3:  Some movements, organized in the millions, are equivalent to any national denomination. Because of their size, they have the resources to take a regular census. A research team physically visits most leaders and completes a survey, gathering quantitative and qualitative data. This results in numbers that are accurate, precise, and frequently updated. 

Are the counts reliable? To answer that, we need to consider the various reasons why someone might look at a number and respond, “That’s got to be wrong!”

  • Mistakes of definition: Misunderstandings can happen when a number or definition is not explained. As with all research involving numbers, it is critical to know the definitions.

  • Accuracy, precision, and rounding: A number can be truthful and accurate yet imprecise. 15 million and 15,203,368 are both accurate and truthful; one is simply rounded. Constant changes make a number that is both accurate and precise nearly impossible.

  • Exaggeration: Actually, movements often intentionally undercountby not reporting less adequately researched streams, or by reducing the total number by a certain percentage. 

  • Deception: To avoid this danger, reports from less visible movements are checked for confirmation by varied outsiders, multiple reports over the years, and reports from other nearby movements.

 


In conclusion, movements count their numbers in the same way that most American denominations do, and the numbers are equally credible. All glory to God for the way he is growing his Church around the world!

This article was originally published in Mission Frontiers, read the full article here