One of the key parts of a Disciple Making/Church Planting Movement project is the task of tracking progress. It is also one of the most difficult parts. The reason is that a “Movement” is by definition…..Moving. Like is said of the river, you never step into the same one twice, because the water is moving. Since we started in 2008, the Honduras Project has been in a constant state of movement. Thus the numbers of Discovery Bible Studies and Churches are always changing.
In the early days our top team was in close contact with all of the DBS groups….then as new people and groups were trained, it became harder and harder to keep track of all that is happening in the Project. Until last May, the majority of our reports were the result of interviews with the key leader. We realized that we needed to find a better way to track what was happening so we created a reporting process that would give us “hard” numbers rather than best estimates from the memory of leaders. I am sure that as the work continues to grow and becomes exponential, the tracking process will continue to be modified.
With that said, we have just completed our most recent assessment and the new numbers are extremely encouraging. God is doing a great work in Honduras and the numbers are verifying an advance in people following Christ and in new churches birthed.
In our most recent report there are 184 churches planted, and an additional 82 Discovery Bible Studies. Nearly 2,500 people have come to faith in Christ, and at least 1,667 have been Baptized. The last assessment was in May/June of this year (just 4-5 months ago) and since that assessment 924 new Baptisms have been recorded! Altogether 3,670 people are involved in the discipling process in these groups and churches. Among the churches, there are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation churches reported. Among the DBS groups there are 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation studies reported.
With these reports and with the information that our hard reporting system has now allowed us to verify (earliest reports being verbal and this years reporting now hard numbers) the progress in this project can be seen.
2008: Project launched. Approximately 20 DBS groups
2009: First multiplication. June: 73 DBS groups (1 church birthed)
(July-January 2010 Government overthrow, travel difficulties create a major setback many DBS groups formed, but they do not survive)
2010: March: 37 DBS groups verified….But by summer close to 100 groups and, in addition, a number of others were unverified. Still only 1 church.
2011: Breakthrough! Baptisms reported and churches formed! April: 62 Churches, and close to 100 DBS groups.
2012: May-June: First Hard Numbers from new assessment system: 127 Churches, 101 DBS groups.
2012: November: 184 Churches, 82 DBS groups!
Praise God for the Advance in God’s work. We look forward to the coming year to see what happens as this work continues to multiply and as new leaders are trained. 2013 is setting up to be the biggest year of new trainings in the whole project thus far. And we will be tracking the results as God’s work goes forward.
How much remains to be done to complete the great commission in Latin America. I ask this because I realize that most of the “unreached people group” task remains in the region called the 10-40 window and since, according to the Joshua Project, there are more than 7,000 unreached peoples we must focus on finishing the task where it is unfinished. Our agency has missionaries working in and out of the 10-40 window and WME is about to deploy a missionary to focus on Disciplemaking in the Indonesia area. We have adopted the Southern Africa Disciple Making Movements and have a missionary couple preparing to launch new DMM outreach to tribals in Botswana. So we are engaged in those areas.
But our primary project for Church Planting Movement/Disciple Making Movement strategy has been in Latin America. Our goal is to see multiple church planting/disciple making movements occur until the task is completed in Latin America….and simultaneously and subsequently, to see leaders from the Latin American movements launch out to facilitate new movements in the 10-40 window and other lesser reached areas. We want to launch multiple DMM fires in Latin America and then see sparks spread the conflagration worldwide.
So what do the most current reports and statistics reveal about the remaining task in Latin America. Check out these facts:
From the top of Mexico to the tip of South America there are:
22 Countries with a cumulative population of 558,494,000 people. The vast majority of these countries are not evangelical. Most of these countries (with only 5 exceptions) are under 20 percent evangelical, and 7 of the countries are less than 10 percent evangelical. (The least evangelical country is French Guiana with only 4.5 percent evangelical). That means that in this large region, there are somewhere around 400,000,000 people who have not been discipled. That last statement is my own general estimate and not scientific, and the numbers might be slightly higher or lower….but not significantly lower!
In these 22 countries there are (according to Joshua Project) 1,396 people groups. Of these people groups, there are 94 (and as you will see later, actually many more than these) unreached people groups. Joshua Project defines an unreached people group as: An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group.
Of these 94 groups, 33 of them are also unengaged. Joshua Project defines an unengaged people group as: An unengaged people group is one which has no active church planting underway. According to the IMB Global Research Office “A people group is engaged when a church planting strategy, consistent with evangelical faith and practice, is under implementation.”
In addition to these 94 groups, and not counted in their number, there are an estimated 90 “uncontacted” people groups in the Amazon. “Uncontacted” indicates groups that have very little known of them, including the fact that they exist. No contact with civilization has occurred with these groups. They may or may not be splinter groups from other tribes…much is simply unknown. There is ample evidence that they exist, because of pictures and videos of peoples and villages that have been taken from airplanes, as well as knowledge of them from other remote, yet contacted groups.
Adding all of this together, we see nearly 200 unreached people groups in Latin America, with close to half of them still uncontacted by civilization. That is right, still uncontacted in 2012!
Therefore, let us state the ultimate goal of the Latin American Disciple Making Movement project. Our goal is to see disciple making movements multiply until:
All the Undiscipled (all 400 million of them) are exposed to the gospel through DMM’s in their region and people group and all the Undiscipled become Disciples of Jesus Christ.
All the Unreached People groups (All 200 or more groups) are reached with multiplying church movements in each one.
All the Unengaged Peoples (All 120 or more groups) are engaged with the gospel and discipled.
All the Uncontacted Groups (all 90 or more groups) are discipled to become followers of Jesus Christ.
There is still a great Task Remaining in Latin America.
The classic “home base” scripture on the Roman Road (a witnessing method that many of us are familiar with) is Romans 10: 9. It says, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Millions of people have come to the Lord by praying a “sinner’s prayer” based on this verse. Praise God for every genuine salvation experience.
But those of us who have worked in Evangelism, Discipleship, Missions, and Church Planting, have been troubled over the years by the additional millions who seem to have glibly repeated a prayer and then have evidenced no observable change in behavior or character. Indeed, statistically, the vast majority of Americans claim to be “Christian”…..but the moral landscape of our nation tells a very different story!
And then there is a scripture like this one….one that should be read alongside Romans 10:9. Check out what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:3. “Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” Focus on that last phrase that says…”no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” What does such a statement indicate, given the fact that people glibly repeat religious phrases all the time.
Could it be that Romans 10:9 is not talking about a “simple formula” for eternal salvation, but rather the culmination of a Holy Spirit revelation in the hearts of people. Only those who have been convicted by the Holy Spirit, and illuminated by the Holy Spirit, can “savingly” confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ….indeed the passage itself links the confession to “heart belief” in the Resurrection of Christ.
And what does this confession of “Jesus is Lord” mean? Is it a simple statement of commitment…like “Jesus is now the ruler of my heart”? Or is it a more profound revelation? And How do people come to this kind of revelation of the Spirit?
I think we can find the answer to these questions by looking at the 4 Gospels and seeing how those first disciples of Jesus Christ came to this revelation. I am going to call this journey, “Following Jesus on the Road of Revelation” and give some examples of “waystations” on the journey.
WAYSTATION 1: John 1:29-“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
I call this waystation: Pointed to by a Respected Leader. You might say this was the first “Baptist Evangelistic Message”. John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and told them that this was the one they needed to follow….the Messiah. The early disciples believed it on the basis of their respect for this leader. This is where most preaching gets us to today. The limitation of this is that we are taking someone else’s word for our commitment to Jesus. The disciples now follow him because of someone else’s word. This is a place to start, but many in our churches today have gotten no further than this. Not long ago, I was in a restaurant when someone introduced me to his wife and said something to the effect of, “You know him….the minister at his church is the one that Saved You”. Needless to say I was horrified at this misunderstanding. If anyone in the world thinks that I or any staff member of my church has ever “saved” anybody, they have no understanding of what we have preached for years! As the sons of Sceva found out, it is inadequate to know Of the Jesus who Paul preaches…..you have to know Jesus for yourself!
With that being said, this is where it starts! We are bearing witness to Jesus and pointing the way. It is the beginning, not the end, of the journey to follow Jesus on the Road of Revelation.
WAYSTATION 2: A Miracle of Supply. Luke 5:1-11. In this passage, which I won’t reproduce in full here, Jesus gets into Peter’s boat and tells him to launch out into the deep and Jesus miraculously produces a gigantic catch of fish. Verses 8-11 tells the response:” 8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. “
Now the disciples experience for themselves the power of Jesus to meet their financial need. They see the power of God through this man Jesus, who they already believed may be Messiah. He is a powerful prophet!
Muslims around the world would agree: Jesus is a powerful prophet….He is the greatest prophet. That is a waystation….but it is only the beginning of Revelation.
WAYSTATION 3: Power over Nature. Mark 4: 35-41. “35That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
The Disciples now see Jesus as one with power over nature….he not only meets my needs, but he exercises authority over nature itself.
Then they respond with a question: Who is this? They ask because now they are mystified…..not since the days of Moses, Joshua, and Elijah has such a miracle been seen. It is a waystation, but not the end. The revelation is coming, but not here yet.
WAYSTATION 4: Power over Many Demons. Mark 5: 1-20. Without reproducing the text, let me point out that they get out of the boat and are confronted by a man possessed with a Legion of Demons. Jesus actually manhandles these fearsome spirits, making them confess their name, and beg him for mercy! Then with utter contempt for them, he sends them to a herd of pigs….pigs with more self respect than to live with such vermin inside them! Jesus is the one with ultimate Spiritual Authority. Demons tremble and beg for mercy before him. Who is this? The revelation is coming closer.
WAYSTATION 5: A Breakthrough Revelation: Matthew 16:13-20. In the district of Caesarea Phillipi, Jesus gives the class a quiz. Like most classes, there is a student who is always first at everything. Simon Peter now blurts out the fact that “He” gets it….he has the revelation.
Matthew 16:16-17 “Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”
Peter says, You are Messiah….the Son of God. There are other religions that will use those words…true as they are….to describe Jesus. Some see Jesus’ sonship as an adopted relationship with God….others as the first being created…a high angel etc. The words are true….but the revelation is not done yet.
WAYSTATION 6: TRANSFIGURATION….NOT FIRST AMONG EQUALS
Matthew 17:1-13. Next Jesus leads Peter, James and John, up a mountain where they witness Jesus radiate the very Glory of God. Then Moses and Elijah appear and are talking with Jesus. Once again, Peter jumps ahead and speaks up: Matthew 17:4-5-
“Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
The big error that drew a verbal rebuke audibly from God the Father was not an objection to pitching a tent! It was the suggestion that there be 3 tents pitched! Jesus is not equal with Moses (the Law) or Elijah (the Prophets). Jesus is above them. The Father says essentially, “Jesus is not just a new Lawgiver or a Great Prophet….Listen to him alone….He is in a category all by himself….Listen to Jesus…..He does not merely take instructions from Moses and Elijah….They are under him….They are his subordinates!
Jesus is not First among Equals….He is First…Period!
WAYSTATION 7: THE FULL REVELATION: JESUS IS LORD
It is only after the resurrection that all the disciples get the full Revelation. Jesus appears to them on that first Easter morning. They begin to bear witness. However, just like there is always a student who always goes first…there is always one who is the last one through the door. In this case his name was Thomas. He was bringing up the rear on receiving revelation. He missed the appearances of Easter Sunday. A week later he shows up and declares his doubt. Then something happens: John describes it in chapter 20 of his gospel.
“24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
NOW LOOK AT THOMAS’ RESPONSE, AS HE IS THE LAST DISCIPLE TO CROSS THE LINE OF REVELATION…VERSE 28- “28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
DO YOU SEE IT…THE FINAL REVELATION: MY LORD AND MY GOD!
MY YAHWEH AND MY ELOHIM! JESUS CHRIST IS LORD MEANS JESUS CHRIST IS YAHWEH….HE IS GOD IN THE FLESH! NOT JUST A KING OF ISRAEL, NOT JUST A MEETER OF NEEDS, NOT JUST A GREAT PROPHET OR POWERFUL SPIRITUAL EXORCIST, NOT JUST MESSIAH AND SON OF GOD, NOT JUST GREATER THAN MOSES, ELIJAH, THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS….BUT HE IS GOD HIMSELF IN THE FLESH. HE IS LORD!
Now we understand Romans 10:9. Paul says we must have the heart faith in the resurrection, the same heart faith that Thomas now had. Then our confession is Jesus Is Lord…Jesus is God in the Flesh. Indeed just 4 verses later in Romans 10: 13 Paul writes, “for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” When he writes this Paul is directly quoting Joel 2:32. The word translated LORD in the Hebrew of Joel is “Yahweh”.
This is the greatest revelation ever granted to human beings. The Revelation that a man that lived on this world, who died and rose from the dead….lives forevermore, and is God Almighty Incarnate…..and through him is salvation! Only the Spirit of God can give this revelation to a person and cause him to confess this with full faith. When a person does that, he or she is changed, regenerated, born again, saved, justified, sanctified and eventually will be glorified! He or she will not be perfect in this life, because we still have this old fleshly body….but a change will begin to be evident, and if this person continues to become an obedient follower of Jesus through obeying Christ’s commandments, this change will become more and more evident as the years go by.
As I close this blog, let me remind us all that only the Holy Spirit can give a person this revelation. No preacher or evangelistic tactic can replace the Holy Spirit. Our job is to do what John the Baptist did: Point to Jesus. Let people begin to learn of him. Let them study the life of Jesus in the Gospels and learn to be obedient to Him. Let them receive the revelation from the Word and the Spirit as we encourage and mentor them. Let us disciple them to conversion and then disciple them after conversion. Discovery Bible Studies allow people to “discover for themselves”….yes, but primarily to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal through the Word to them the fullness of the ultimate truth in this Universe: JESUS IS LORD!