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(Mission Frontiers) There was no way Jeff could reach this people group alone. He began training local believers to make disciples and plant churches. Jeff learned to ask five questions:
• How do I enter an unreached region and connect with people?
• How do I share the gospel?
• How do I make disciples who disciple others?
• How do I form groups in the community that will reproduce?
• How do I develop and multiply local leaders?
Jeff sought out examples of the best practices from anywhere in the world where he could find a Church-Planting Movement. He then applied these lessons to his setting. He learned that a Church-Planting Movement is a work of God through his Spirit and his dynamic Word.
Jeff learned to teach new believers to obey Christ. He learned to identify leaders, not by their knowledge and gifts but by their obedience, because obedience is at the heart of any Church-Planting Movement. Local believers with little or no education faced persecution with courage and boldly declared the gospel. They learned to obey what they knew. Jeff discovered that a disciple who is obeying the little he knows is on the road to maturity.
Over the years Jeff and the leaders he trained equipped thousands of local believers to share the gospel and plant churches. Across the region tens of thousands of new disciples formed new simple churches—many of them in regions where there is official hostility toward Christianity.
In 2009 the Sundells moved back to the United States and began applying what they had learned to their new situation. They moved to an old mill town in North Carolina that had been in economic and social decline since the 1970s. Unemployment was high, and drug and alcohol abuse was a problem. With help from the police, Jeff identified the three toughest neighborhoods in their county—Henrietta, Alexander Mills and Spindale—and chose them as his mission field.
Jeff met with pastors in the wider area to cast vision and offer training to anyone who was interested. He gathered a small group of men and women on Monday mornings and began training them how to share their story and Jesus’ story. They then went out prayer-walking in one of the three neighborhoods, and they looked for opportunities to connect with people who were far from God.
These areas are known for their pit bull dogs and methamphetamine labs. As Jeff and his coworkers met people, they asked, “If God could do a miracle in your life today, what would it be?” Then they prayed for people on the spot.
Jeff recruited his mom and dad, Norm and Paula, to the team, and they began walking and praying. On their first day, Jeff’s parents visited an African American neighborhood. The day didn’t begin well when Jeff’s “Yankee” father asked two middle-aged women, “How are you guys?” They thought he was addressing them as men and began cursing at him. (A real Southerner would have asked, “How are y’all?”)
Norm and Paula persisted in the conversation, however, and eventually one of the women, Ruth, asked them to pray for a severe pain in her chest. The other asked, “Just pray I’ll get through the day.” Jeff’s parents prayed for them and promised to visit again.
A week later Jeff’s parents returned and met a man named Randy sitting out on his front porch drinking even though it was only 10 a.m. Randy’s porch was the place to hang out if you wanted to party. He invited them to come back and share some stories about Jesus.
Norm and Paula moved on and visited Ruth to pray for her. Word spread that they had returned, and a woman called Annie came looking for them. She’d heard there were some folks praying for people and wanted them to pray that God would provide a stove for her and her family. They prayed for her—and for a new stove. A few days later a friend of the Sundells heard about the need and donated a stove.
The next week Jeff’s parents were at Annie’s house enjoying the cookies she had baked on her new stove when Ruth came banging on the door. She wanted prayer. The doctor had just told her that the pain in her chest was breast cancer. They prayed for her.
Norm and Paula began a simple discovery Bible study with Randy and his drinking buddies on Randy’s porch. They read stories about Jesus and asked, “What does this say about God? What does this say about people? Is there a command to obey or an example to follow?” Norm had them reading the story of the four friends who lowered the paralytic through the roof so that Jesus could heal him when Randy realized he needed to do something about Ruth’s condition. Since Ruth had been diagnosed with cancer, she had missed all her medical appointments out of a combination of fear and her drinking problem.
Randy and his buddies knew this, and when they read the story of the four men who brought their friend to Jesus, they knew what they had to do. Before Ruth’s next appointment, they stayed up all night to make sure she didn’t get drunk. The next morning she arrived at her appointment on time.
The Bible studies on the porch continued until one day Jeff’s dad got a call from Randy saying, “I believe! I believe!” Ruth also gave her life to Christ. Six weeks after his conversion, Randy told Norm, “You know I’m an alcoholic. Would you pray that I’d get healed?” Today Jeff’s mom and dad have a ministry on the porch praying for people; they ask “that alcohol would taste bad in their mouths.” They also pray for people to find work and God answers.
Randy, Ruth, and other new believers in the community consider that porch as their church. The porch used to be the place where parties happened. Now no one is allowed to drink on the porch. Instead those who are still drinking bring their bench as close to the porch as possible so they can listen in while the church meets around God’s Word. Over twenty people have been baptized, and disciples are meeting in three simple neighborhood churches. One of the groups meets in a hotel room.
Jeff and his coworkers continue to prayer-walk the community. They pray for the needs, share their stories, share the gospel and make disciples. Discipleship can be a challenge as new believers grapple with drug and alcohol addiction and fractured relationships. Some of them are still using drugs or living together. Jeff never compromises what the Scripture teaches; he knows that making disciples takes time.
Some time later Jeff met with Neil Perry, pastor of a growing church in nearby Forest City. After planting the church, Neil found himself preoccupied with counting “butts on the seats.” Over a three-hour cup of coffee, Jeff helped Neil discover how he could get back to making disciples. One of the new believers in Neil’s church was Chuck, a former crack cocaine dealer who had run a prostitution ring in his basement. With Jeff’s help, Neil taught Chuck to make disciples and plant churches. Now Chuck runs a simple church for his former friends and associates in the basement where he once sold cocaine and ran prostitutes. A pastor in Spindale, Andy Evans, has also connected with Jeff and is training anyone who wants to learn to make disciples. One of the new believers is a former cocaine addict who has formed a church in a trailer park with twenty baptized new believers.
It’s a long way from the Himalayas to North Carolina. Jeff has been able to adapt the principles he learned in Nepal to a very different context. He still asks himself the same five questions.
After two years, over 350 people are gathering in 73 groups. Over 250 people have been baptized. Jeff has identified 45 people in the network who are effective in connecting, sharing the gospel, and reproducing disciples and churches. Seventeen of them have equipped groups to reproduce between two and four generations of new groups.
Jeff’s example and training is inspiring a growing number of people to apply simple church planting methods across the United States and Australia. Those he has influenced are identifying houses of peace, baptizing new disciples, and forming new neighborhood churches in their communities. In doing so they are imitating Jeff, but Jeff himself is imitating Jesus, because Jesus is the Lord of a missionary movement that Jeff and his friends have joined.
(Jim Denison Forum) Syria continues to make headlines as its civil war escalates. The United Nations estimated in mid-February that 70,000 people had been killed in this conflict, now in its third year. Last Friday and Saturday, strikes attributed to Israel reportedly targeted a research center near Damascus involved in creating chemical weapons, as well as an airport and Iranian-made ground-to-ground missiles bound for Hezbollah.
In the midst of this physical war, Syrian Christians are facing something much darker—a spiritual war. Christians in Syria have historically experienced a higher degree of freedom than in most other Middle Eastern countries. Many of them have refused to denounce the Assad regime, fearing that extremists would replace the government and severely persecute religious minorities. As a result, many of the rebels consider Christians to be loyal to Assad. In addition, Christians populate a region of Syria that is strategic to the war. Whoever controls their land can split the nation in two and control the conflict. Here's the bottom line: Believers in Syria now face the possibility of population transfers, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. There are three ways we can help them. First, we can join them tomorrow in a special day of prayer and fasting. Coordinators of "The Day of Prayer for Syria" have issued this letter: "On Saturday, May 11, Christians from different denominations . . . are joining together in prayer and fasting to plead before the Lord for His mercy on Syria and an end to the violence. Due to the dangers of traveling in combat zones, Christians will be limited to local meetings planned all across Syria during this day. These groups will be meeting in homes, arenas and churches. Christians across Syria have asked that you join them in prayer on May 11. Thank you for standing in the gap on behalf of the Syrian people and reflecting the love of Christ. Second, we can make time during Sunday worship services to pray for our persecuted sisters and brothers in Syria. (For specific prayer requests, go here.) And third, we can join "8thirty8," a global prayer initiative for the persecuted church. My dear friends Tom and JoAnn Doyle, missionaries with e3 Partners in the Middle East, have created this network. Those of us who have joined them set an alarm each day for 8:38 PM as a reminder to pray for believers in prison, persecution, and danger. You can like their Facebook page for updates and RSVP with your commitment to the Day of Prayer for Syria. When Peter was imprisoned by Herod, "the church was earnestly praying to God for him" (Acts 12:5). As a result, he was miraculously released and continued his global ministry. Let's intercede together for those in our faith family who need a similar miracle from God today.
Syria (MNN) ― It's easy to lose sight of just how bad Syria's refugee crisis has gotten after 14 months of flow into Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. e3 Partners, however, has far from forgotten.
"We think it's one of the largest humanitarian disasters in the Middle East in probably the last ten years," says e3's Tom Doyle.
It's been extremely difficult to keep track of any numbers during the severe unrest in Syria. The number of deaths since the unrest began range anywhere from 10,000 persons to 20,000. No one seems quite sure how many people have been imprisoned or how many are missing. And of course, it's incredibly hard to keep track of how many people are desperately fleeing the war-torn nation.
e3 has an estimate though: "We think it's probably 300,000-plus refugees in the surrounding countries right now." The exodus is likely to keep up with the fighting.
"The civil war continues. It really does not show any signs of letting up," says Doyle. "We think there's some nations behind Syria now that's given them strength to keep this going. So our hearts go out to people in need, no matter what the situation is, no matter the government."
The ministry is not just saying that. Their concern is personal, and it came recently in the form of a desperate call from Jordan.
"We got a plea for help from a Middle East leader saying, ‘Would you be able to help us? We are overwhelmed with the need: the food, the shelter, the clothing that's needed.'" Doyle says many Christian groups in Jordan are severely overwhelmed as they try to take on some of the work the government cannot tend to.
"[Refugees] come into Jordan; it's safer there. So the Jordanian government is doing what it can, but the needs are pretty overwhelming. It's not a large country -- maybe 5 million -- but they've had over 100,000 refugees. So Christian groups are actively reaching out to them," Doyle explains.
And now e3 is reaching out to those Christian groups. Every dollar they raise to help believers in Syria goes directly for those groups to provide clothing, food, shelter, water and other basic necessities. Doyle says clothes are often the first need to tend to as many Syrians fled with nothing but the shirts on their backs.
The response is vital for several reasons. Basic needs are provided for to be sure. But care under Christians also has a protective element to it. Refugees who flee Syria without finding a place to help them could easily get sent back to Syria. Doyle says a potential change in government could completely alter the fate of many people.
As e3's partner groups reach out, their most important gift is the Gospel. Believers have to be careful, but when the time is right, they are sharing the message of Jesus Christ with refugees. Doyle says many refugees are simultaneously having dreams about Jesus and entrusting their lives to Him.
Even back in Syria, the Lord is at work. "In the midst of total neighborhoods being destroyed and people being displaced, there are some amazing stories of Jesus coming to the rescue and reaching out to people," says Doyle.
Despite the largest humanitarian crisis in a decade, the One True God is moving. And e3 wants to be a part of it.
You can help e3 send aid and the hopeful Christ message to thousands. Click here to give and to find out how you can get a copy of Doyle's book Desperation to guide your prayer. Keep praying.
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