Solomon says good news from a far-off land is like water to a weary soul (Proverbs 25). Could you use some? Me too.
This month I want to share with you some developments my friend Robby Butler is seeing as he looks at God’s work around the planet. Robby has spent decades studying the promises of God’s Word, looking at the ways those promises are being fulfilled, and calling believers to participate in fulfilling the Great Commission.
Read on to see why Robby thinks we have reason for great hope in these days.
Give your soul a drink!
By Robby Butler
Behind the global turmoil that preoccupies so much of the world’s attention, God is quietly reaping the greatest spiritual harvest in history, while preparing an even greater harvest.
And at the center of this global outpouring is prayer, along with the intentional pursuit of movements, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to motivate and equip disciples and small churches to reproduce rather than just gather believers to receive ministry.
Following are the most significant developments I have seen over the past year in this global revolution with links to related resources. Suggestions for improving or expanding this list are welcome.1. Focused Prayer
In May of 2017, global prayer network leaders met with mission leaders to focus prayer on the remaining missionary task. This has birthed a growing global focus on prayer for movements to complete the Great Commission. Watch an inspiring video.2. Closure Focus
Shortly after this focus on prayer, the 24:14 Coalition formed—dedicated to pursuing movements of rapidly multiplying small churches and disciples in every remaining unreached people and place by 2025. Read about the coalition or watch a video update.3. New Awareness
The trust environment created by formation of the 24:14 Coalition led many movement leaders to share with each other what God was doing. This jumped the April 2017 estimate (162 movements with 20 million new disciples) to a 2017 year-end confidence of nearly 650 movements with 50 million new disciples. (I detailed this new awareness in a Mar/Apr 2018 Mission Frontiers article, which I later revised and posted here.)4. Rediscovery of Movements Strategy
The July/August 2018 Mission Frontiers is dedicated to revealing the pivotal relevance to movement practitioners of the parable Jesus himself entitled “The Parable of the Sower” (Matthew 13:18). We have often misunderstood and misapplied this parable to be teaching us what kind of soil or seed we should be, when in fact it points to the strategy Jesus modeled as a sower. Read the articles.5. Refugee Dynamics
God is using the global refugee crisis to bring blessing to peoples that were previously isolated from the gospel. (Read observations from our 2017 participation in refugee ministry in Europe).6. Family Blessing
Movements—the Word of God blessing families and other relational networks—are an important corrective to the tendency of most evangelism and church planting efforts to focus on individuals without regard for their family relationships. I excerpted two books on this for the Mar/Apr 2016 Mission Frontiers. My friend Chuck White drafted an article correcting a common misuse of scripture to win individuals away from their families. I hope to have this expanded to a clarification that God’s intent to bless families is the foundation for discipling nations.7. Fear Exposed
Satan’s hold over most unreached peoples is partly through their fear that Christianity will tear apart their families and communities. Evangelism that pulls individuals away from their families compounds this fear. Movements correct this problem by blessing families. At the September 2017 meeting of the International Society of Frontier Missiology, I presented an adaptation of McGavran’s article explaining this dynamic. Read an updated version.8. Disparity Recognized
India has long received only the prayer and laborers proportionate to its classification as a country, while in fact India has a larger population and more complexity than most continents. While most countries receive an average of one missionary for every thousand people in their unreached people groups, India receives only one missionary per 46,000. India is home to nearly half the population of all unreached people groups and has more complexity and need than all of Africa. Awareness of this disparity of needs and resources is stimulating increased prayer and efforts toward starting movements on the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). Here’s the data.9. Frontier People Groups
In early 2018, the concept of frontier people groups (less than one Christian family of any kind per 1,000 families) brought fresh clarity to the remaining task. Read about frontier people groups.10. Prayer Focus Continued
God continues stirring global prayer for movements among the largest remaining frontier people groups. A small team of global prayer network leaders has pulled together a 31-day prayer guide for the largest frontier people groups (revision in process).11. Reliance on the Holy Spirit
Steve Smith’s Spirit Walk: The Extraordinary Power of Acts for Ordinary People reintroduces the ancient fruitfulness of following the Holy Spirit’s leading in the pursuit of movements.12. Movement Training Hubs
The 24:14 Coalition update in the July/Aug 2018 Mission Frontiers reports on the significant development of intentional movement training hubs to accelerate the equipping of more disciples to start movements among peoples that most need them.13. Annual Increase of Believers
If the data I am now studying is correct, for the first time in history the annual population increase of believers will soon surpass the annual increase of non-believers, and shortly thereafter the number of non-believers in the world will start decreasing. See my draft chapter for an upcoming book on the 24:14 Coalition.
Never in history has the Holy Spirit prompted such global collaboration in focused prayer and labor toward biblical, multiplying discipleship among the peoples and places still waiting in darkness.
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20).
Again, I welcome your suggestions for improving or expanding this list.
Thank you, Robby, for this great list. And thank you, God, for the way you are at work in our day bringing the abundant life of Jesus to all peoples.
Adapted from Extraordinary Global Kingdom Developments, June 24, 2018.
Maldives is one of seven popular destinations ranked high as countries where Christians are persecuted. See related story below (Open Doors).
Source: Compassion International, July 20, 2018
Christians from all around the Chaing Rai District of northern Thailand gathered on Sunday, July 22, to praise God for the dramatic rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach after they were trapped for two weeks in a flooded cave system. One of the boys who was rescued is Adun, who is sponsored through Compassion Thailand.
The majority of the soccer team participated in a Buddhist ceremony on July 24, but Adun chose to worship God at a special thanksgiving service held at the Compassion partner church he attends.
Local governors, officers and those who participated in rescue operations attended the service to thank God for the safe return of the Wild Boar soccer team. During the thanksgiving service, Adun shared a moving testimony with those gathered of what it was like to be in the cave.
“By the tenth night, we were losing patience, hope, physical energy, and courage. We could not do anything to help. The only thing that I could do was pray. I prayed ‘Lord, I’m only a boy; you are almighty God, you are holy, and you are powerful. Right now I can’t do anything; may you protect us. Come to help all 13 of us.’
“Thank you to everybody who prayed for me and the whole team,” Adun said. “Thank you to everybody that helped us, and the last thank you [goes] to the Lord: Thank you God. God bless you all.”
» Blogger Jen Oshman suggests child sponsorship is one of the best things we can do to help those in need before the next tragedy strikes. Also, from neighboring Malaysia, read about the Christian recently appointed top judge, a first for that country (Barnabas Fund).
Source: Open Doors, July 27, 2018
This beautiful world God created is full of surprises to discover, hidden beauty to explore and unique people to meet. However, in some of the most beautiful places in the world—our brothers and sister in Christ struggle daily with persecution.
Did you know that popular “resort” destinations like Brunei consider the Bible an illegal book? And in the Maldives, where the water is so beautiful it was used as a location in a Star Wars movie, there isn’t even a Bible published in the native language.
Some of the most popular vacation destinations and beach paradises have extreme levels of Christian persecution. On the surface, these countries might boast beautiful scenery, well-oiled tourist industries and colorful culture, but underneath there’s a secret war going on for religious freedom you should know about.
» Full story includes pictures and links.
Source: God Reports, July 27, 2018
An Ethiopian man who suffered great torment for eight years found healing in Jesus, according to a church planter affiliated with New Covenant Missions.
“Tesfaye had been possessed by an evil spirit and been unable to speak or walk,” the church planter recounted. [His wife] requested prayer for her husband, even though they were not Christians.
“We started praying fervently to the Lord Jesus to heal him from whatever was oppressing him… Just then the evil spirit that possessed Tesfaye shouted very loudly and went out of him in the name and power of the Lord Jesus Christ!”
“Then we explained to the couple about the Lord Jesus and His love for them. We also explained to them about Satan who wants to destroy us, rob us of our joy and health, and that he is the enemy of our souls. We told them Jesus has crushed the power of Satan by living a sinless life and dying for our sins on the cross then rising from the grave.”
“Right then both husband and the wife stood up asked Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. Immediately Tesfaye began to speak and to walk!”
» Eritrean Christians and human rights advocates are cheering the release of 35 Christian prisoners as a new peace pact between Eritrea and Ethiopia takes hold this month (Religious News Service).
Source: World Watch Monitor, July 27, 2018
The Rwanda Governance Board continues to close churches it says fail to meet requirements laid down at the beginning of the year. New requirements set in place for those congregations that want to continue ministry are also complicating efforts to comply.
According to a report by Rwanda’s pro-government KT Press, more than 8,000 churches have now been closed, and the number keeps growing.
This law is being enforced even though it has not yet been approved officially. In most cases it is almost impossible for churches to make the required changes within the given timeframe of 15 days.
» Full story includes links to related news and reports a marked increase in government secularism as well as fear among church leaders. A story from Baptist Press says that 1,100 of the closed churches have reopened.
Source: Open Doors, July 25, 2018
Naomi [and her sisters] were born into a devout Egyptian Muslim family in Mali. Their father had moved from Egypt to Timbuktu to spread Islam. When Naomi was eight, her father died, and the girls were adopted by their uncle. He enrolled them in an international Christian school, a common practice for Muslims who desired good educations for their children.
As Naomi interacted with Christians at school, she found herself drawn to Christ, and at the age of 12, she professed him as Lord. Her life would never be the same.
Almost immediately, her family disowned her. When a local missionary family heard about Naomi’s situation, they took her into their home.
“They loved me like their own daughter,” says Naomi. “From them, I learned more about Christ and grew in my faith.”
Eventually, the missionaries had to return to their home country, leaving Naomi with no option but to ask her family to take her back. She remembers how each day, they cruelly harassed her for her faith.
When she was 16, Naomi met a Christian man from Belgium and agreed to marry him.
“I hoped very much that this would be the beginning of new things,” she says. But the persecution continued.
“Whenever I went around town, people would call me a kafir (which means infidel). But for me, the hardest thing to handle was the rejection from my family. When they saw me, they would spit in my direction and curse the blood we shared.”
“More than once, my family sent jihadists to my house to kill us (or at least intimidate us),” she says. “Their plans never worked. But one day, while my husband was on a business trip, he was gunned down. He was killed for his faith, and for marrying an ex-Muslim. His colleagues delivered the terrible news to me. I have no idea what happened to his body.”
After his death, Naomi, now a young widow, somehow managed to care for her two sons—alone. But in 2012, as Muslim jihadists used the political Tuareg Rebellion as an opportunity to wreak havoc, things took a turn for the worst.
» Full story includes prayer points and reports that Open Doors is trying to find a viable business venture for Naomi to help her provide for her family.
» In addition to a cultural shift towards intolerance, Mali recently closed 750 schools, affecting thousands of children (Partners International). Mali had presidential elections on July 29 (AP News).
Source: Wycliffe Bible Translators
Kids are home from school, the weather is warm, the outdoors are green, and everything is filled with promise for adventure and fun. But it can also feel a bit overwhelming when you consider the weeks (they might even feel endless) that your kids are out of school, needing to be entertained, engaged, involved, or kept busy with something.
This scavenger hunt should keep your kids busy for a portion of the day while also giving you a chance to teach them something fun and interesting about the world in which we live. So go ahead, send them on a worldwide scavenger hunt—right in your own home!
» Learn about other activities for children from Wycliffe.
» See also Worldviews: A Children’s Introduction to Missions, from Pioneers (which is also the ministry behind Missions Catalyst). Discover any great new resources for children’s missions education? Let us know.
Source: Missio Nexus
The Evangelical Missions Quarterly, which recently became part of Missio Nexus, is in its fifty-fifth year as a professional journal serving the worldwide missions community. If you don’t currently subscribe to EMQ, now may be a good time to sign up.
The latest issue will give you plenty to chew on related to raising up and equipping global missionaries (and global mobilizers). It includes the nine articles listed below and nine book reviews as well as several other features. The magazine is only published electronically now.
- Mobilization: The Fourth (and Final?) Era of the Modern Mission Movement, by Steve Shadrach
- The Mobilization Index: Connecting the Global Church to the Unreached, by Jason G.
- Mobilizing God’s People for God’s Mission, by Steve C. Hawthorne
- Mobilizing Movements, by Randy G. Mitchell
- Rites of Passage: Building a Mobilization Team in Your Church, by David J. Wilson
- ONLY vs. Primary and Secondary: The Key to the Missionary Motivation Problem, by Bob Sjogren
- Prayer: Our Greatest Task in Mobilization, by Steve Coffee
- Innovations in Mobilization Collaboration, by Mark Stebbins
- A Re-Focus on the Local Church: Media Collaboration in the Middle East, by Phill Butler
» Also see the Launch Survey website, with research for mobilizers on the most significant motivations and obstacles facing aspiring missionaries. Additional material has been added to the site in recent months.
Source: Peregrini Press
Voices from the Field: Conversations with Our Global Family, ed. T.J. MacLeslie. Volume 2 in Field Notes series. Peregrini Press, 143 pages. 2018.
What do “they” say about “us”? Are you sure want to hear? Can we afford not to?
Author T.J. MacLeslie asked dozens of missionaries to interview local friends in their host cultures, asking about their lives and stories of faith as well as their answers to questions like, “If missionaries were going to come to your town, what would you want them to know before arriving?” and “What are some areas of conflict you observe in the foreign community?” Some missionaries were reluctant to ask. Some of their friends were hesitant to speak. But these are conversations we need to have, and the answers were gracious as well as enlightening.
The volume includes the voices of more than 30 respondents from Mexico to Mongolia. You’ll have to read carefully: in order to preserve authenticity, submissions were only lightly edited and cultural differences were not smoothed out or explained away. As you read, be thinking about how local people in your context might answer these questions. Better yet, ask them.
The Kingdom Unleashed: How Jesus’ 1st-Century Kingdom Values Are Transforming Thousands of Cultures and Awakening His Church, by Jerry Trousdale and Glenn Sunshine. DMM Library, 2018. 400 pages.
This most recent volume in the growing body of literature about disciple-making movements focuses less on telling stories from Africa and Asia, and more on analyzing how long-held practices and paradigms keep those of us in the “Global North” from experiencing the same kind of power.
This is not a simple book. It blends Bible, theology, and church history with the stories of DMM leaders and ordinary people from around the globe to make its case for a new/old way of following Jesus. If DMM is your world (or you want it to be), take some time to work through this book. It may not be the best place for someone to start, though. Readers, what would you suggest?
The Mind of a Missionary: What Global Kingdom Workers Tell Us About Thriving on Mission Today, by David Joannes. Beyond Reach Global, 2018. 332 pages.
This book explores the motivations, expectations, risks, and rewards of a missionary life. In each chapter, the story of one of a dozen mission leaders, old or new, shows us how to thrive on mission today. These missionary “guides” include Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, C.T. Studd, Nikolaus Zinzendorf, Robert Moffat, Jackie Pullinger, David Eubank, Nik and Ruth Ripken, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Don Richardson, and Heidi Baker.
I haven’t read this book but it looks interesting and well crafted. I intend to pick it up. See the book’s website to learn more.
Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar
Editor’s Note: Before we leave July, consider making time for researcher Justin Long’s Quarterly Update Webinar exploring events and trends impacting missions to the unreached. It will be offered several times on July 27. Signing up also gives you the access to materials to watch and read at your convenience.
August 4-11, ReBoot Re-entry Program (Calgary, AB, Canada). For returning missionary kids, ages 17-20, transitioning to life in Canada.
August 5-10, Check-IT-Out Summer Conference (Charlotte, NC, USA). For IT and software professionals and students on using technology in missions, particularly Bible translation.
August 6-7, Support Raising Bootcamp (Plano, TX, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.
August 10-12, Everywhere to Everywhere (Sioux Falls, SD, USA). Missional training and outreach event.
August 13-17, Cubs to Lions (Edmonton, AB, Canada). Discipleship for Christians with a Muslim background.
August 23, The Role of Church and Mission in Crisis Management (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.
August 23-24, Support Raising Bootcamp (Edinburg, TX, USA). In Spanish.
August 31, The State of the Gospel in North America (online). Webinar from the Billy Graham Center.
September 3 to January 6, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (online).
September 3-16, ORIENT (Joplin, MO, USA). Missionary training.
September 6, A Missionary Pipeline for your Church (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.
September 6-8, Multiply: Disciple-making Movements Summit (Wheaton, IL, USA).
September 10-14, Global Member Care Network Conference (Quito, Ecuador).
September 10 to December 9, Encountering the World of Islam (online).
September 13, Spirituality in Cross-Cultural Mission (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.
September 13-14, Support Raising Bootcamp (Vancouver, WA, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.
September 3-14, Great Commission Leadership Institute (Chiang Mai, Thailand). Provided by SVM2.
September 17-18, International Orality Network Annual Conference (Orlando, FL, USA). Followed by Simply the Story Orality Training.
September 19-20, Standards Introductory Workshop (Orlando, FL, USA). Presented by Standards of Excellence in Short-term Missions.
September 19-25, Traction (Wilderswil, Switzerland). Renewal conference for men serving cross-culturally.
September 20-22, Missio Nexus Annual Conference (Orlando, FL, USA).
September 21-23, Business as Mission Conference (Philadelphia, PA, USA).
» View the complete calendar. Please let us know about mistakes or omissions. For more details, contact the event organizers.
- EAST ASIA: Exchanging the Good for the Greater
- CUBA: Seeing Christ in Neighbors and Family Members
- KYRGYZSTAN: Church of Muslim Converts Told to Close
- SIERRA LEONE: Now Sending Missionaries to Europe
- MAURITANIA: Death Sentence Compulsory for Blasphemy
- WEST AFRICA: Key of the Kingdom
See a father’s love for his child displayed in this sweet short film, Delight (The Jesus Film). How does this remind you of God’s love for his children?
Today’s news briefs deal with challenges and breakthroughs for the Church around the world. As you read them, remember the Father’s loving presence with us in every situation.
Source: Beyond, July 1, 2018
Recently I returned from a training in a large East Asian country. The 16 trainees were leaders of various discovery Bible groups started over the past year.
Previously, they belonged to a growing church in the city. They had recently come to a startling revelation: the more their church grew numerically, the fewer disciples they had been making. Their focus on excellent preaching had failed to produce real lifestyle changes in their members. Additionally, they found as the church grew, they had fewer new believers attending. Their desire to grow numerically was actually making them less effective as a church.
In a bold move, the church leaders decided to once again meet in small groups. They trained their leaders in the discovery Bible group process and ensured that all their members attended a small group. Shortly after they made this decision, government officials demanded they shut down their large Sunday meeting. A few months previous, this decision could have been disastrous, but these leaders saw God’s hand in the timing of these events. They decided that it was God’s will. They would not seek another meeting place for their large meeting. Instead, they would continue with the new discovery study groups, as house churches.
Pray that God will continue to equip leaders like these as they regroup to examine the real purpose of the church. Is it to grow the church in numbers or to develop disciples who develop other disciples?
» On July 27, Justin Long, Beyond’s Director of Global Research, will present a webinar about events and trends impacting mission to the unreached. The US$25 registration includes both an invitation to the webinar and a recording of it, so even if you can’t make the webinar you can still watch it and get the slides. He plans to do this once a quarter.
Source: Mission Network News, July 11, 2018
In Cuba, people are coming to Christ after witnessing the faith of their neighbors and family members.
Helen Williams of World Missionary Press says, “People are coming to recognize Jesus Christ as the only way, through his Word and the quiet testimony of the believers there.”
When Williams says “quiet testimony” she means that Christians in Cuba rely heavily on their individual testimonies, shared by word of mouth and by the way they live their lives, to witness to others.
“I just want to encourage our listeners to know that the Word is there, it is being shared, and that even in a country where there are restrictions or concerns or whatever, the Word is working. People are coming to the Lord and making it public. And we just want to praise God for that, it was just a wonderful report from Cuba of what the Lord is doing.”
» Full story mentions literature distribution and ways believers are working together, turning from idolatry, and more.
» Cuba has been experiencing revival for several decades. We continue to pray for Cuba’s Christians, especially those who are part of the 10 churches that lost their pastors in a plane crash in May.
Source: World Watch Monitor, July 4, 2018
A church in Kyrgyzstan [that includes] many former Muslims has been ordered to cease its Sunday worship. A local source told World Watch Monitor that services at the church, which is led by a convert from Islam, have been interrupted twice in the last few months by a group of people consisting of local officials, representatives of the Prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, assistants to the local imam, and former colleagues from the school at which the pastor used to teach.
The church has for more than a decade been led by Pastor Miran. The leadership of the school where he worked threatened to fire him after they learned of his conversion and his role as a church leader. He was also accused of child abuse by the school and jailed for six months. The source said the church felt the allegation was only leveled against him because of his conversion.
Since his release, Pastor Miran, a father of five, has been unable to find paid work. According to the World Watch Monitor’s source, local Muslims say of him: “If Miran could betray his ‘native pure Islam,’ maybe he could do other bad things too.”
Source: God Reports, June 29, 2018
To many observers, it appeared foolhardy to send such a fruitful worker to such a hopeless nation. But Pastor Harold Warner didn’t flinch when he launched firebrand African-American preacher Alvin Smith into Sierra Leone in 1989. He had heard from God. And nearly three decades later, the results are dumbfounding.
The original church in Freetown has exploded to 80 churches. The nation that once was classified as the second poorest in the world now has planted churches in Liberia, Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Congo, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast. Pastor Desmond Bell, from Sierra Leone, is now a missionary in Marseille, France. They have even sent three missionaries to Europe.
“To take people, to take young men and women from one of the poorest countries in the world and (for God to) say, ‘I’m going to shape and I’m going to fashion them because they are going to accomplish my purpose not only in their own nation but also beyond the boundaries,’ is one of the greatest privileges of life,” says Warner in a 2018 conference video. “I just sit back and chuckle because this has to be God.”
Source: Global Christian News, June 15, 2018
The Mauritanian government has now passed into law amendments to the criminal code making the death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of “blasphemous speech” or “sacrilegious acts.” The changes also do away with the option for those found guilty to “repent” and avoid the death penalty.
The amendments to the criminal code put in place a sentence of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 600,000 Ouguiyas (around £12,000) for “offending public indecency and Islamic values.” They were passed into law by country’s National Assembly on April 27, 2018.
The Mauritanian government last carried out an execution for blasphemy in 1987. A Muslim blogger, tried in 2014, was the most recent person to be convicted. However, his death sentence was downgraded to two years in prison. The announcement of plans to amend the criminal code came in November, days after it was made public that the blogger would be freed after serving his sentence.
The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is almost entirely Muslim, although there are a small number of predominantly expatriate Christians.
» Stories like this are discouraging, but see also How Malaysia and North Korea Inspire Us to Pray Impossible Prayers (Open Doors).
Source: SIM Australia, June 25, 2018
A West African woman stood up at an annual church meeting in March. The woman testified that she had stood in the same meeting last year to ask for prayer for her husband’s salvation. He often beat her for following Christ. However, this time she stood to give an update.
A few months earlier, the woman testified, she had told him she wanted to attend a week-long church meeting. Her husband was livid. A whole week? Who would cook his food? Clean his house? She should focus on the majority religion of the region and forget church. He beat her severely—again. Nearly all Christian women converts in this region are illiterate. Many make these meetings a priority to ask Bible questions because they cannot read or obtain a Bible on their own.
This Christian woman was determined to go to the church meeting regardless of her husband’s violence. Still enraged, he locked up the house as soon as she left, declaring to the neighbors that his wife would never enter his home again. To make his point, he threw the key into the river as he headed to his girlfriend’s house for the week.
The woman enjoyed the Christian conference and returned home on Friday, stopping by the local market. She planned to have a hearty meal ready for her husband when he came home from Friday prayers. She had no idea that her husband had already locked her out of her home for good. Arriving home, she was puzzled that the house was locked up tight. She needed to start preparing the meal, so she borrowed a pot from her neighbor and began to clean the fish.
When she cut open the fish, a key fell out of its belly. Puzzled, she examined it and remarked to her neighbor that the key looked similar to her own house key. Her neighbor urged her to try it in the lock, and it worked! She opened up the house, cleaned it, and got her husband’s supper ready to wait for him…