USA (MNN) – It’s easy to associate successful church ministry with material factors such as large ministry budgets, modern church buildings, and fun programs.
However, according to Operation World, the countries with the fastest growing evangelical Christian rates often have limited church resources and heavy restrictions on the Gospel. Among the top ten are Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Algeria, Kuwait, and Tajikistan — all countries with severe Christian persecution, and yet, incredible Church growth.
Global Disciples works in 50 countries around the world providing training to equip near-culture workers and multiply disciples. They see this trend of impressive Church growth in restricted countries, and when they share with US churches, leaders are astounded.
Jerry Meadows with Global Disciples Church Relations says, “US churches have begun to ask us, ‘How is that happening? How is the Church growing where the Gospel is restricted and there aren’t many resources? How are they multiplying disciples at that kind of rate, and what can we learn from that?’”
Global Disciples recently led a three-day experiential learning and discussion session with US churches to go over these questions.
“It’s not a curriculum. It’s not a program we’re pushing. It’s simply sharing what’s working where the Church is growing.”
When it comes to discipleship multiplication here in the US, they first looked at what aspects are or are not successful.
“When we did that with a group of 25 people in Sarasota just last month, US church leaders [had] this sense of conviction — conviction of what we’re doing right, about the traction we have in discipleship multiplication, as well as the conviction of distractions,” says Meadows.
“What we’ve been looking at for discipleship [in the US] is primarily ‘come and congregate with us on a Sunday, we will teach you what you need to know, and then you go live it.’ That is perhaps not as effective as we thought it had been.”
As US pastors and Christian leaders examine what is working in other countries, Global Disciples shares what they do and see with disciple multiplication in other nations.
Meadows shares the story of a young Christian girl in a restricted country. “People are punished and persecuted for their faith, and yet, this 17-year-old girl says, ‘I am going to stand for Jesus Christ in my school where I am surrounded by a different belief system that is anti-Jesus.’
“When she shared the Gospel in her school against severe persecution, a dozen classmates came to Christ and she knew how to disciple them. She couldn’t take them to a church building. She couldn’t take them to a pastor for discipleship. She had to do it herself and she knew how to do it.”
American church leaders hear these stories and Global Disciples’ strategy and they extract the principles they can apply to their own congregations. Each leadership team is different and has their own takeaways.
“Some of our churches are very good at teaching Bible content. We have mature Bible readers. We have mature church attendees. Do we have mature disciple-makers?
Meadows points out, “You know that someone is a mature disciple when they actually make other disciples that make disciples…. It’s straight out of the Word of God. It’s straight out of what Paul said to Timothy. ‘The same things you have learned, teach to others who will teach others also.’”
In order for American Christians to embrace the disciple-maker mindset, we need to abandon the consumerist mindset in our churches. Once we are no longer bystanders, we can engage in the lives of other believers and go on our faith journeys together.
“It says in 2 Corinthians 5 I believe where it talks about the ministry of reconciliation. It’s the love of God that compels us to tell other people what living and loving like Jesus brings to life.
“We’re really asking people, ‘Do you want to learn what it’s like to live and love like Jesus Christ?’ That’s a journey I’m on in my life, and I can invite others on that journey as well.”
“I think that’s a longing on our hearts here in the US,” says Meadows. “We want to be disciple-makers like that, even though we have a vast amount of resources and the Gospel is not restricted. I see church leaders longing for the average person in the seats in the church to multiply disciples.”