Engage, Empower, Equip, Expand, Explode
by John Lambert
While working in Thailand, we were given a kind of mandate during the year 2010 moving into 2011 that defined our cross cultural ministry.
What I have written is derived from my own studies and experiences and is based on what I have observed as barriers and potential solutions that may promote greater breakthrough of the Gospel among the unreached.
I believe that this strategy is fairly simple and none of it, on its own, is really new. But together I believe it builds out a fuller approach that can be used by local missionary led teams to empower local believers and accelerate greater breakthroughs.
Using the five words; “Engage, Empower, Equip, Expand, & Explode” I outlined the basic approach we wanted to have in cross cultural ministry.
It is sort of like a unique “blend” in coffee. I think it’s the blend that makes this approach different.
Depending on where we are working at the moment, some of the emphasis can change but the overall force of the words are still the same.
Maybe you will find some things that are useful for your own work in cross cultural missions.
I will expand on each of these below:
- We seek to engage those who have not yet heard by sowing the seed of the Gospel (outside the four walls of the church) We seek to reach out to every strata of society, from business leaders to the poor. We go out also for the sake of the people who live at their jobs and will not seek out a church. In Asia, this is much easier and natural than it would be in the West.
- We go knowing that God has prepared people beforehand who are ready to believe (Cornelius, Ethiopian Eunuch, Lydia etc). We pray for them before we go and expect to meet them on our journey.
- We engage people primarily through “mouth to ear,” two by two teams, and prophetic “treasure hunt” style evangelism where the Holy Spirit directs us who to speak with as we move.
- We have the goal of forming and equipping local evangelism teams that go out to the streets on a regular schedule to bring the Gospel to people using this “mouth to ear” evangelism style . We would also like to see teams of young Thai people trained and released in drama, comedy, music, and other creative street outreaches.
- Once we are connected to a community through a “person of peace”, we seek to engage the local community through acts of kindness. We do this through Serving. We also plan regular “Servolutions” where we do simple acts of kindness for free in Jesus’ name throughout a given community through the local body of believers in that area.
- We engage the community by using local house church “discovery” groups to engage communities-these groups can be at businesses, at coffee shops, homes, wherever people like to meet.
- We work with local Thai churches to partner with other local ministries to reach out to students, bring them to Christ, and connect them with the church. We teach them how to build buffers between the one coming to Christ and the community of established believers by bringing the church to them, not expecting them to go to the church.
- For established traditional churches, we must work to prepare enviroments and “third space” experiences “in house” where people feel confident that the people they bring to the church will be taken care of and welcomed warmly without condemnation. The creation of this “enviroment” covers many areas, from the way people are greeted and recognized to the way the worship team leads, to the way the service transitions, and how bad habits are dealt with etc.
- We teach the principle: If we expect a new harvest, we must “go out” sowing seed. We believe that many ministries and workers are expecting a harvest but they are not sowing any new seed. Others have grown complacent and need to be reignited in their burden for those who are away from God and lost without Him.
- We work to empower all people to fulfill their God given destinies, from the least to the greatest. “God has a plan for each person” is our message. Each believer has good works prepared by God in advance for them to do.
- We also specifically focus on empowering those who have no power (the poor, the alien, the women, simple people like farmers, etc) by sowing the confidence that God gives through his Word. (ie, John 14:12)
- We teach and emphasize that we are all servants of God, not higher than each other, but with different gifting and talents. We do not call ourselves “Ajarn” or “teacher” but rather explain that we are “trainers.” Teachers follow the model, “I speak and you listen.” Trainers follow the model “I train and you train.” We believe in teachers in the Body of Christ, but shy from the Thai word “Ajarn” because of its connotations in Thai thinking.
- We believe highly that we should give honor where honor is due and to all men, but especially to those who labor in the teaching. But we need to begin to dismantle some of the myths of the clergy/laity distinction. We do this by teaching the priesthood of all believers, that each believer has direct access to God!
- Beyond this truth, we recognize that there are some who have stronger and more outward giftings or anointings in the Body of Christ for specific purposes. Some have paid a higher price of sacrifice for the Gospel’s sake and should be honored because of it. Yet, above all things, even these know that even if “they worked harder than them all”, that it was not them, but “the grace of God” working in them. These leaders are “fathers” or “mothers” in the faith. They are gentle among the saints as a mother nursing her own children and not as the “super apostles” mentioned in 2 Corinthians. They are known as “the servants of all.”
- We all teach believers about the true nature of leadership (servants) and their Biblical roles (to protect-give an account for their souls, intercede until Christ be formed in their sons and daughters and equip the saints, and that their main role is to equip the “saints” or all believers for the work of ministry God to which God has called them, not merely do the work themselves) as contrasted to “worldly” leadership and their “lording it over” and exercising strong authority over those in their command, even to the point of taking advantage and abuse.
- We teach believers about the “Father heart” of God and the love and grace of God which empowers us to love others and serve versus the spirit of religion which pushes us to serve God out of fear and duty. No one ever has to function as an “orphan” any longer because God sets the solitary in families and gives us the right to be called the children of God.
- We believe that the Gospel is good news to the “poor.” It is for the empowering of the least in society. This is the counter cultural nature of the Gospel. Our ultimate goal if to give power to all people to accomplish the overall vision of “win, disciple, consolidate, & send.”
- We work to equip all believers with the tools they need to walk out their callings as disciples in their businesses, their jobs, and in their families. We have the goal of not extracting people out from their communities, but teaching them to survive inside of them as believers and how to grow beyond them as well. We emphasize living in the world but not of it and walking in the Spirit.
- We teach on the role of being spiritual mothers and fathers to a new generation and how that practically plays out in the life of community.
- We teach and model for people what it means to have Godly families and how they can serve God together. We believe that families are the basis for all healthy community and society. This is a normal part of the early discipleship process.
- We teach on the renewing of the mind and living in mindset of another Kingdom! This teaching has implications on the every day life of every believer.
- We equip them to be “ministers of reconciliation” which includes how to let God flow through them to lost people and how to have a burden for people who don’t know God that compels them to action (imploring, persuading, convincing).
- We work to equip Thai churches how to make room for lost people to feel more welcome at their church, how to be more aware of them in overall planning, and how to deal with them in grace.
- We equip people on the process of how to disciple people INTO salvation, and not simply to disciple those who have been made to “pray the prayer.” We teach them how to have patience with people while they are in the process.
- We equip by setting up a system by which new believers are “initiated” into the family of faith-discipleship, public baptism, welcoming to the local church, first communion, & ownership of personal and corporate vision etc.
- We equip people to plant simple “churches” or “groups” that are connected and accountable to a larger network- the network is not there to LORD over the people but to empower them to fulfill their God given calling to win the lost (fishers of men) and disciple believers (“teaching them to obey all I (Jesus) have commanded them.”)
- We work to equip by identifying and sending apostolic teams to new areas to reproduce this simple model of organic “POUCH” (Participatory, Obedience Based, Unpaid Local Leaders, Cell Principles, and House meetings) churches who have “Discovery” Bible studies (Inductive approach using a “facilitator” and focused on obeying what is discovered in the group) are the core elements around which they are built.
- We believe that we as the Church are not meant to stay small but to take over in the dominion and authority of Jesus Christ. However we believe this is done primarily through the empowering and multiplication of small groups of disciples who are working in many spheres of society, being salt and light right where they are.
- We subscribe not to a “search theology” versus “harvest theology” which simply means that we have responsibility for the fruit we bring to Jesus. He has appointed us to go and bear MUCH fruit. We believe that there are no people are too hard for the Gospel, but that it has rather been us who have been unwilling to sacrifice and hear God’s plan to reach them versus our own.
- We believe that the Bible, and ultimately God, is concerned about numbers. If not, we would have never known that 3,000 people believed on the day of Pentecost. Therefore, we work to keep records of who believes and who is baptized etc as we grow the work. However we don’t believe numbers are the sign that discipleship is taking place.
- We are meant to grow and keep growing because we have life within us. Everything healthy grows, so we focus on health when we are not seeing growth. Again, we have been appointed to bear fruit that remains. When we bear MUCH fruit we show ourselves to be disciplined followers of Christ (disciples) because we are doing what he commanded us to do.
- If we do what God has commanded us to do in His Word, we will be successful and we also believe that He will confirm his Word with signs, miracles, and wonders following.
- We teach all new believers that they should never get too comfortable in their groups. Their desire should be to multiply, grow, and expand because we are always wanting to make room for others.
- When new believers come in to the Kingdom, we teach them what it means to be adults and how to feed themselves in a relationship with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We do this by teaching the principles of simple “discovery” Bible study and commending them to the grace of God that saved them and to the Lord Jesus Christ we paid for their salvation. Ultimately they are responsible to Him, not us.
- We teach all people how to be ministers and minister (or serve) others with their various giftings because this is their calling!
- As we believe in expanding, we are believing God to raise up and send new apostolic teams to reproduce this vision throughout other nations. These teams can be fully indigenous or a mix of any other nations who are willing to lay down their “lives” for the Gospel, learn another language and culture, and partner together with others for a common vision. One of the most strategic things missionaries can do is to equip indigenous believers for cross cultural work.
- When we believe in Jesus, the Scripture says that our of our innermost being shall flow rivers of living waters. When people touched Jesus, it was said that virtue flowed out of him. We need this same virtue to flow out of us individually and corporately to touch a lost and dying generation. It is still this “virtue” flowing that heals the sick and accomplishes the miraculous today.
- We believe that we need a true move of God, one that shakes people and powers; where the power of God touches people and they are never the same again. We have a history of this type of revival moving through us and we are believing God for a sovereign move again. We must be ready to embrace all that He wants to do.
- We, like the believers did before us, should ask God to confirm His Word with signs, miracles, and wonders following. But first we must get up and go. We believe that the new move of God will be on the go. As we go, we will receive prophetic words, wisdom, knowledge, discernment, and miracles for others by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- We fulfill part of this mandate by teaching all believers about Spiritual gifts and their operation in the life of every believer. We emphasize the fact that they are not only for today, but also desperately needed to advance the Kingdom of God. We believe that ultimately it is affront to the wisdom of God to say that we “no longer have need of the gifts.”
- We teach on characteristics of revival using examples from past moves of God, while also believing God to send it in whatever form he wills for this generation. By doing this, we believe that we will be more prepared to recognize and embrace and true move of God when it comes as well as have the wisdom to not hinder it.
- We teach on the topic of “Fire” as it relates to spiritual passion and holiness. We believe that every believer needs the “fire” of God in their lives. It will change them forever.
- We teach that ongoing and sustained prayer and intercession are a pre-resequite for awakening and revival. We demonstrate this practically by spending quality personal time towards this end personally as well as corporately.
- We believe and teach that holiness is the achilles heal of a sustained “Jesus Revolution”. We teach new believers to guard their personal lives even more than ever before because this will be the thing that then enemy attacks the hardest. We teach that leaders especially must guard against the three killers of pride, sex, and greed for gain.
- We teach believers how to be earnest in prayer and expectant in faith in order to receive from God. We also teach believers how to be in position to receive, sustain the move of God, and expand it throughout the region by networking with other networks of like mind.
These are our ministry emphasis and the mandate we feel we have received for the purpose of sharing it with every believer with whom we have influence.
These mandates relate to our overall strategy to win the lost, disciple believers to be obedient to God, consolidate them into “churches”, train leaders, and send those God separates for this work.
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