In this series, we explore the stages we’ve often seen as God works among a people group. From an initial prayer movement for a people group, to a time of learning about them, seeking ways to engage with them, sharing the good news, seeing a church emerge through to that church becoming a mission sending church – we long to partner with these movements and see the gospel grow.
In the book of Acts, disruption often opened the way to sharing the gospel. For instance, in Acts 16 the earthquake in Philippi that opened the gates of the prison was a traumatic experience for the jailer, but prompted him to ask Paul and Silas ‘what must I do to be saved?’ (Acts 16:30, NIV). The result of the earthquake was that he and all his family were saved.
A few years ago a team of local believers were praying, looking for a way to share the gospel in a mountainous area of Southeast Asia. In one village, high winds destroyed several houses, killing a number of villagers. The news came to an OMF worker who supported the local team as he was meditating on Isaiah 25:4:
‘You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the storm
and a shade from the heat.’
He encouraged the team with this verse and they took the initiative to go and serve the villagers in their time of need. As the believers worked alongside the villagers to rebuild the damaged homes, they could naturally share about God, who is the true shelter and refuge.
The practical project provided a way of engaging with the community, building relationships and beginning to share the gospel. About two months later, the believers invited a local evangelist to come and preach in the village. The villagers gave him a warm welcome and he preached the gospel for about four hours! He brought the good news to them in their own language and in a way they could understand. His hearers were deeply moved and all 25 present accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
The gospel is also proclaimed by our loving actions, though opportunities for doing this can come up unexpectedly. One of the community leaders strongly criticised his wife when she put her trust in Jesus. About a year later he broke his leg in a serious road accident, which killed several other people. The man was taken to the local witch doctor, who proved unable to help him. The believers prayed faithfully for the man for over a month. Much to his neighbours’ astonishment, the man recovered rapidly. As a result, he turned to the Lord and, as an influential community figure, his decision prompted many more people to accept Christ.
As these new believers grew, it brought more opportunities to share the gospel. When 25 of them were baptised, over 100 relatives came to a celebration afterwards and watched an evangelistic film. Later on, two of the local religious teachers asked for a Bible and expressed a desire to learn more about Jesus.
More was to come as a new believer asked his neighbours to join himself in prayer for a sick woman. Wonderfully, she was healed and as a result the woman, her family and the neighbours all came to faith.
The movement keeps on growing and the church leadership is developing as they spend more time in the Bible and in OMF supported training sessions with other leaders, considering topics such as how to hold worship services that are culturally appropriate, and of course, Christ honouring.
As we partner with churches like this one, our aim is always to encourage them so that they can start their own mission movement. So that they will go on to share the gospel, just as other local believers first reached them. This is the kind of multiplying movement we pray and work for as OMF.