Ordinary People as Witnesses Making Disciples – Part 2
– By Shodankeh Johnson, Victor John, and Aila Tasse –
The leader of a large movement in India shares these testimonies of God’s work through ordinary people.
The main leader in one area of our country, Abeer, has consistently reported that the Discovery Study approach is a great tool for growing people’s faith quickly. This is especially true for illiterate people, because each person can easily listen to the story on the speaker and discuss the questions.
Abeer has many generations of disciples that have reproduced from his ministry. One of the 5th generation leaders, Kanah, is 19 years old. He has already started Discovery Groups in three villages. One day, this young man went to G. Village, and was surprised to discover that a family there said they were followers of Jesus! Kanah visited the seven members of the family, including the 47-year-old mother, Rajee. During their conversation, Rajee said, “Yes, we know about Jesus, but we have no idea how we will ever grow in our faith because pastors do not come here.”
Kanah felt great sympathy for this family because his testimony was the same. When he first gave his allegiance to Christ, there had been no pastor to teach him in the ways of his new faith. Pastors would come to his village occasionally, just as one had visited this family, but the pastors would only come to preach for a while, collect an offering, and then leave. They had never committed themselves to regular visits or actual disciple-making of any kind. They had only been taught to preach, so that is what they had done.
After listening to Rajee, Kanah said to her, “Auntie, I tell you truthfully, my story is just like yours. But one day, after I had been alone in my faith for a long time, I met a team who told me that while it was so good I had given my allegiance to Christ, I hadn’t been told the whole story. Not only are we to follow Jesus and be His disciple, but we’ve also been commanded to go and make disciples of all nations.”
Rajee said, “We don’t have a Bible and we don’t know how to read. Kanah said, “Yes, I understand. In my village there are also many people who cannot read, but this team gave me a speaker with Bible stories on it. If you listen to this speaker, you’ll hear God’s word and learn it, and as you discuss the questions on the speaker the truths will go deeper into your heart and life.”
Rajee asked if she could have such a speaker. Two days later, he returned to that village and gave the family a speaker. He explained: “After listening to these stories, it’s very important to discuss the five questions so you can grow in your faith without depending on someone to come from far away and teach you.
Rajee’s family had waited a whole year for a pastor to return and teach them, but no one ever came. Then this young 19-year-old visited one day and gave them the tools they needed to grow in their faith. In ways like this, the Holy Spirit is working and this movement is growing. Kanah isn’t a pastor; he’s not had any Bible training. He’s not even a member of a big church. He’s just a simple guy from a village. And because he himself has followed this pattern for learning and growing in faith, he is able to share it with others. We praise God that even simple people are functioning as a royal priesthood – serving God and bring His salvation to others.
What if, instead of relying upon sermons as our mode of instruction, we focused on discussing the Bible: everyone interacting over a passage in a small group and then obeying what they learned? Thousands of small churches in India today are doing exactly that. Here is a recent testimony of how this approach is helping followers of Jesus grow in their faith.
A woman named Diya lives in “K. Village,” which is far from any town. Residents there cannot travel or leave their village very often because it is so remote. This isolation really bothered them. They wondered how they would ever learn more about God. Once, they heard a man talk about Jesus, that He is great and able to do miracles. But in their isolation, they wondered if they would ever hear more about Him.
One day, several disciple makers met in the home of a church leader in that general area. The leader asked: “What do we do about people with whom we’ve been able to share a little bit about Jesus, but they need to know more? How can we follow up with people who live so far away that it’s hard for us to reach them?” This question touched JP, one of the disciple makers.
He thought, “I have a bicycle. I could go visit with people who live in remote villages.” This is how JP ended up in Diya’s village. He met with her and her whole family and they talked about Jesus. He told them about Matthew 28, that we who are His disciples are commanded to go and make other disciples. He told her how she and her family could also obey Jesus’ commands and that as they applied Jesus’ instructions to their lives, their faith would grow. Diya and her whole family were so happy that someone from “the outside” had come all the way to their village to meet with them to talk about Jesus!
JP gave them a speaker saying, “Sister, here is a simple way you can worship Jesus together in your home. I, too, am illiterate. I am not wise. I was never trained in an official pastor training program. But I have this speaker with many Bible stories on it.” JP told Diya how she and her family could use the speaker to study God’s Word. He left it with her, and worship to Jesus began in that village for the first time.
One day, a neighbor family came to Diya’s house to join them in their Bible study. However as soon as they heard the voice start to narrate the Scripture, the 19-year-old daughter in the neighbor’s family began to cry out – truly wailing. Priya had a demon in her, and everyone was very afraid.
What would happen? None of them were pastors. What were they supposed to do? What would the demon do? No one knew. So they all just kept listening to the story. The narration went on while Priya kept wailing and everyone else present was silently asking God to do a miracle. As the story ended, finally someone was brave enough to say, “Let’s pray!” So they all prayed for Priya and she was freed of the demon! And that’s not all. She also had been ill for a long time, and during that meeting, God not only freed her of the demon but also healed her illness. After witnessing these two miracles, both families declared that they wanted to be followers of Jesus! Priya’s family has now also started hosting a Bible study group in their own home.
Diya and Priya have since visited 14 different villages for the purpose of spreading Jesus’ story! In those 14 villages, 28 Discovery Bible studies are taking place regularly. These groups are not yet spiritually mature. They are infants in the Lord, but the ladies have faith that many disciples will be made in those places. The main church leader in the area, the one who hosted the meeting that JP attended, has visited these groups himself and talked to them about growing mature in Christ.
This is the power of God’s Word and His Spirit, working where there are no seminaries or paid clergy. Just simple people hearing God’s words and putting them into practice, like the “wise man” Jesus described in Matt 7. Jesus said that anyone who hears His words and obeys is like a wise man who built his house on rock so that nothing moved it, not rain or even floods. How precious and wonderful to be taught this lesson by people who can’t even read!
Our God is making clear that he can use all kinds of people to make disciples. He delights to show his amazing power through human weakness. As the Apostle Peter told the household of Cornelius: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34 NIV). God delights to do extraordinary things through ordinary people. As we read the testimonies of these “ordinary” witnesses around the world, what might the Father want to say to us about our role as his witnesses?
Shodankeh Johnson is the leader of New Harvest Ministries (NHM) in Sierra Leone. Through God’s favor, and a commitment to Disciple Making Movements, NHM has seen hundreds of simple churches planted, over 70 schools started, and many other access ministries initiated in Sierra Leone in the last 15 years. This includes churches among 15 Muslim people groups. They have also sent long-term workers to 14 countries in Africa, including eight countries in the Sahel and Maghreb. Shodankeh has done training, catalyzing prayer and disciple-making movements in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. He has served as the President of the Evangelical Association of Sierra Leone and the African Director of New Generations. He is currently Director of prayer and Pioneer Ministries at New Generations.
Victor John, a native of north India, served as a pastor for 15 years before shifting to a holistic strategy aiming for a movement among Bhojpuri people. Since the early 1990’s he has played a catalytic role from its from inception to the large and growing Bhojpuri movement.
Aila Tasse is the founder and director of Lifeway Mission International (www.lifewaymi.org), a ministry that has worked among the unreached for more than 25 years. Aila trains and coaches DMM in Africa and around the world. He is part of the East Africa CPM Network and New Generations Regional Coordinator for East
(1) Excerpted from “Discovery Bible Studies Advancing God’s Kingdom,” in the May-June 2019 issue of Mission Frontiers; published on pages 174-184 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon
(2) For security reasons, all personal names within these vignettes have been changed.
The five questions, as recorded in the mp3 audio DBS story sets, are:
- In this whole story that you’ve heard, what one thing do you like the most?
- What do you learn from this story about God, about Jesus or about the Holy Spirit?
- What do you learn from this story about people, and about yourself?
- How should you apply this story to your life in the next few days? Is there a command to obey, an example to follow, or a sin to avoid?
- Truth is not to be hoarded. Someone shared truth with you that has benefitted your life. So, with whom will you share this story in the next week?