Believers in America and elsewhere sadly acknowledge that, while millions of people gather regularly for services with exciting worship and energetic preaching, young people are leaving their ranks in droves. Also, the lifestyle of many “Christians” seems barely different than unbelievers. Where has the Church gone wrong? Can we usher in vibrant, authentic Christianity that actually transforms cultures?
In other parts of the world, the Church grows with astonishing speed and maturity, although with great suffering and even martyrdom. Do they share and live the Gospel differently? In most cases, yes! This is why generally in reports you receive from us, we speak of training Ivorians to share the Gospel through Community Health Evangelism (CHE) with Discovery Bible Studies from Disciple Making Movements (DMM) methodology as the usual Bible study. Perhaps at times you wonder, “Why? What is the hoopla about?”(or hupla, as we will spell it). These two intertwined means of evangelism and discipleship rest squarely on applying the Word of God in every aspect of life from household to household. Using the acronym HUPLA, we list below some core principles present where the Church is exploding globally.
“H” IS FOR HEARING
True discipleship occurs when the Word of God is heard systematically in the home. Our pastors are great blessings as they shepherd, encourage, and equip us for the good works the Lord has prepared for His flock. However, their ministry is not enough. We all must learn to hear our Chief Shepherd’s voice daily, through His Word and by His Spirit. In many parts of the world where severe persecution and great growth occur, the believers have never attended a service in a church building, or had a praise team or a full-time pastor.
One of the great delights as we lead, or teach others to lead, DMM method Bible studies is to see how each participant discovers that the Lord is speaking to him or her directly, regardless of social standing, education, or ethnicity. CHE thrives in communities as participants learn that God’s Word addresses not only their urgent need and provision of a Savior, but it also gives real answers to issues of marriage, child-rearing, self-worth, health, farming, racial strife, nutrition, work ethic, leadership, sanitation, business, and so on.(https://awaupdates.blogspot.com/2017/06//the-book.html provides more of the story).
“U” IS FOR UNDERSTANDING
Hearing does not always mean understanding, though. When exposed to God’s Word, do participants understand what the Word means and how to apply that understanding in their lives? A pastor speaking to 50 or 5,000 will not know if everyone has understood. A small Bible study leader, or a Community Health Evangelist (called a CHE) who shares in individual homes, can verify that listeners understand by getting feedback and answering questions & tells more from website below.
“P” IS FOR PRACTICING
Here is where the rubber meets the road. People often come and go from church services for years with no visible change, but James makes it clear that we are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. In obedience to this precept, DMM and CHE require action points in Bible study or home visits to assure that transformation occurs. Hearing and understanding are accompanied by hearts readied to obey.
One DMM Bible study leader shared this week that a businessman responded to the story of Ananias and Sapphira by realizing that he had not been totally honest about proceeds from his sales and needed to rectify the problem. In another study of Isaiah 59, a lady learned that guarding sin in her life could prevent the Lord from responding to her prayers. She discovered that repentance from sin revealed to her by the Holy Spirit is a daily habit to be desired for life. (Read more athttps://awaupdates.blogspot.com/2017/08/hidden-face.html).
“L” IS FOR LIGHTING THE WAY
Putting God’s Word into practice is never just for our personal benefit. The Lord always wants our obedience to light the way for others to believe and obey. Every DMM meeting, we ask the question: “With whom can I share the truth I learned this week?”, or “Who is someone the Lord has put in my path to help?” CHE’s whole premise likewise is involving every person in the community to participate in working together for transformation. Whether sharing how to have sins pardoned by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, or how to prevent children from getting worms, or how to quadruple corn production, we can never hoard God’s truths and blessings and be truly rich.
We have mentioned before a ministry that opened in a village because our team invited villagers to observe and learn from a CHE agricultural project.
They already saw the health restored of two children by following some of our nutritional advice, and so now they eagerly watch the progress in the fields and are willing to engage in spiritual conversations as well. Other times “lighting the way” entailed helping a friend know how to start a business, and another learning to change a lifestyle to prevent depression. The Million Village Challenge that the CHE Ivorian network hosted recently in Abidjan (and plans to do again next year) is all about believers uniting to inject unreached and unengaged villages with the Gospel.
(https://awaupdates.blogspot.com/2017/09/fan-to-flame.html provides more on the MVC)
A IS FOR ASSESSING (OR ACCOUNTABILITY)
In many settings, the greatest missing component to making mature disciples is the lack of transparency or accountability to others. In DMM, participating leaders check each week with everyone in the Bible study to see that the action point of the previous week was put into practice by the Holy Spirit’s help. The CHEs visit individual homes weekly to teach a new lesson and to be certain that previously presented truths are put into practice. Imagine if everyone in our churches had that kind of open examination, correction, and encouragement!
A major part of our ministry is coming along side CHE and DMM teams to train them and then help them evaluate their progress and find solutions to problems. One reason the CHE university training continues to expand yearly is because there are assessments always ongoing.(https://awaupdates.blogspot.com/2017/09/prepare-way.html explains this process.)
So that is the HUPLA … neither complex nor expensive, but simple and powerful. Thousands of communities around the world thrive with dedicated persons applying God’s Word holistically and with immediate, intentional obedience. You help make this available and possible daily in Cote d’Ivoire as you partner with us in prayer and giving. “Thank you” is inadequate to describe the joy of seeing lives changed and individuals beginning to own that they can reach the peoples of their own nation with the Gospel. Many groups have asked to be trained in the next year. We need very strong 4th quarter giving again for this to happen by our walking with the poor here, especially since the dollar has lost value in the last nine months.
Pray the Ivorian CHE trainers and we capably juggle busy work schedules with time needed to train the groups that want to use CHE ministries in outreach. Wisdom is needed for our team(s) to prioritize who to train first as well.Pray that Ivorians will take the responsibility to penetrate more than 100 unreached villages in the next few years through the Million Village Challenge, using CHE as the tool.Continue to pray for new believers who face situations of persecution.Join us as we boldly ask the Lord for abundant 4th quarter funding. We desire to not just “scrape by,” but fully engage in the opportunities the Lord has given us.
Your partners in the Gospel,
Verlin and Debbie