How the Pandemic Kickstarts Breakthrough Growth
In June 2020, the COVID 19 pandemic was raging in many parts of the world. Severe lockdowns had come upon South Asia. This brought our disciple-making activities to an almost complete standstill. There were forty of us equipping people in skills for Disciple-Making Movements. What should we do?
We discerned God leading us to make a change and begin “online simple churches.” To get started, we organized ourselves into groups of four to six people. This added up to 8 simple churches that would meet online.
A New Journey Amidst the Pandemic
It was a new journey. There was a sense that this initiative was going to breathe new life and energy into our efforts. We felt excitement, faith, and hope when these first eight groups started meeting in early July. Very quickly we were growing. Within a month, several of the trainers started new groups, some two, others three.
Four months have passed since we started on this journey. We look back and are grateful to God for the way he has worked amongst us and through us during this short period. There is much reason for celebration. Below is one example of how growth happened.
What Happened for S.K.
S.K. has been a YWAM FM church planter for many years. He completed his SOFM (School of Frontier Missions) in 2012. Since then he has been serving in a district located in South India. After years of ministry, he and his team of 11 people had led about 80 people to Christ. He was frustrated. These believers did not seem to care about reaching out to others in the community. He was not sure what he was doing wrong.
Unsure What to Expect
When S.K. agreed to be part of an online simple church in July, he didn’t know what to expect. Within the first week of being part of the first meeting, he knew what he would do. S.K. cast vision and trained his team members in this new approach. They in turn started eleven new house churches. They also trained the members to start new house churches. Several members of these house churches began active evangelism. Then they discipled those who believed. Soon new groups formed.
Within four months, about 750 people heard the gospel. Sixty of these people believed. Of them, 37 are now baptized. 120 more people are taking steps closer and closer towards Jesus. They are either part of a simple church or they joined DBS (Discovery Bible Study) groups. Today, there are 40 groups. They meet weekly to pray, worship, and learn the Bible. They set evangelism and disciple-making goals and practice relational accountability with one another.
S.K. says the most active disciples are those that have come to faith during the last 4 months! Full of joy, they share the gospel, pray for the sick, and start new groups.
Life and Forward Movement
As I said, the above story is one among many stories of what God is doing. Some teams had experienced stagnation, a lack of fruitfulness. Now they are seeing a fresh lease of life and forward movement. For example, in one city in Eastern India, eleven new believers were baptized in October. In Bangladesh, a Person of Peace was found. This man then opened up his community and welcomed a church planting teams.
In some locations, that had no work in the past, God is opening new doors. For instance, a couple in Punjab had been struggling with health issues for about two years. Recently they had the privilege of baptizing a Person of Peace. This person, in turn, opened the door to whole new communities.
This lead to more than 100 people hearing the good news of Jesus. As a result, there are five new salvations, DBS groups started in homes, and a children’s ministry launched with 48 children.
Other locations, where we had seen good fruit in the past, had become almost totally inactive due to COVID 19. This continued for several months. After we initiated on-line simple churches, they are experiencing new bursts of life. One example is in West India. There, during the last two to three months, more than 30 new simple churches started. Half of the members are new believers, and thirty percent are seekers. We are seeing how much people enjoy studying the Scriptures. Using DBS, they say the Lord is pouring in deep insights helpful for personal and group growth.
These Practices Produce Greater Fruit
In many parts of our region, we are seeing a return to the disciple-making of the New Testament days. God seems to have allowed the coronavirus situation to bring positive change. It has forced many to re-think our church traditions. There are some customs and traditions that actually hinder growth and multiplication. We are seeking to follow what God is doing “during such a time as this” and getting back to the basics.
Helpful feedback is coming from teams in various parts of our region. This allows us to identify fruitful practices. They include:
- Participatory simple church that motivates believers to contribute.
- Participatory DBS that enriches and helps spiritual growth.
- Goal setting in the area of evangelism and disciple-making, coupled with friendly accountability. These are key motivating factors towards application and obedience.
- Simple church being a place for authentic fellowship and training in disciple-making skills.
- Repeated God-sized vision casting for DMMs during simple church meetings. This helps people dream bigger and to believe in what seemed impossible before.
- Simplicity of the format that helps in the reproduction of disciples and churches.
- Mutual pastoral care deepens relationships, making people feel valued.
- Immediate baptisms that are more aligned to baptisms in the book of Acts.
- Local disciples (rather than full-time workers), baptising new believers, and starting new groups. This affirms the priesthood of all believers.
- Generational growth that empowers and encourages each group to reproduce itself.
- Extraordinary prayer that accompanies simple church efforts that moves the hand of God.
From a North Indian city with its surrounding towns and villages, we have more feedback. Our coworkers there tell us that almost all the above practices are taking place. This is leading to greater fruit. The following is a report from our Movement leader there, N.G.:
In the last 3 months, over 1,000 people heard the gospel. About 100 people believed and so far, 60 baptised. Other people are preparing for baptism. During this period, over 50 new house churches formed. Some reproduced to the 2nd and 3rd generation. A vast number of local disciples have taken ownership of the DMM vision and are having faith for the same.
Praying Like Never Before
Many are praying like never before. They pray for those in their circle of relationships – family, friends, and neighbors. They have a list of names of those who are Lost & Saved. They are praying for the lost to be saved and for the saved to be productive in disciple-making. Regular evangelism is happening. Signs and wonders occur. Believers are baptizing new believers and starting new groups. Women are starting all-women fellowships. Ministry goals are set and friendly accountability is practiced.
Not every location and not all YWAM-FM teams are seeing multiplying fruit. What is happening, however, is a clear sign of a fresh move of God in our region. We go forward with new lessons and increased hope. There is a real stirring. We are confident that this fire will continue to spread. The fire will impact our older works for greater fruitfulness. The fire will touch new unreached people groups. It will reach new geographical areas for breakthrough and multiplication.
No lockdown can stand in God’s way! Watch an interview about this here.
What is stopping you from trying on-line Discovery Bible Studies in your area?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.