The messengers of life

Among the many new developments in the Oikos School since the last update, one of the most recent happens to be the most exciting. Over the past few months, an initiative began among many of Oikos’ former students to form a network of disciple-makers all across northern Togo. They have given themselves the name “Les porteurs de vie,” or “The Messengers of Life” in English.

The leaders of this movement met together several times to cast a clear vision for the network and to work out the details of how it will function. The biggest thing to come out of those meetings was that they will be planning, organizing, and teaching their very own Oikos trainings. They will be using the Oikos School’s facilities, training materials, and funding, but the leaders and members of the network will be entirely responsible for the trainings, beginning to end. This is such an exciting development because it is a very tangible fruit of the vision that we have had for the Oikos School from the very beginning, namely that the Togolese would reproduce disciples, churches, and leaders all on their own! 

The Messengers of Life will be holding their very first training on November 14, so please keep this training in prayer.

Report from New Oikos Training

 

All the students and teachers in the new training.

Wow, what an amazing four days we had last week!

Yes, last week. I know that many of you have been wondering how the training went, and this update is getting out quite late because our internet has been down since then thanks to the greatest internet service provider in the world, Togotelecom. (Can you sense a little sarcasm?) But that’s definitely a story for another day!

Tchéou teaching

Tchéou teaching

Jesus told his disciples to “pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” (Luke 10:2), and we have been praying that same thing and asking you to pray it since we began our work here. Last week we saw the next stage of that prayer being answered. We had new 25 students (5 couldn’t make it for various reasons) at the Oikos School from all over northern Togo who were hungry to learn how to make disciples and start new churches. Many of them already have some experience in church planting, but even they were expressing a genuine openness and a desire to learn and apply biblical principles and practical tools to the church planting process.

Daré teaching about the DBS method.

Daré teaching about the DBS method.

A major element that we emphasize in all of our training is the use of the Discovery Bible Study method. It is a very simple and reproducible way to study God’s word in groups which engages everyone through a group discussion about a particular passage. We introduced the DBS method to them very early on and had the students facilitate and participate in several of these throughout the training. Little by little, they began to see and understand how practical and useful this tool can be to make disciples who will obey all that Jesus commanded. (Mt. 28:20)

Jesse teaching about love-motivated obedience.

Jesse teaching about love-motivated obedience.

We touched on obedience a lot during this training because, like in the West, churches often distort biblical obedience into keeping a bunch of man-made rules and taboos. Therefore, we contrasted what walking in obedience to Jesus’ commands (summarized by loving God and others) looks like in comparison to all the extra-biblical traditions that Christians here cling so tightly to. We also contrasted the mere accumulation of knowledge (what most Bible schools provide) with action-oriented obedience to Jesus. As James says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)

Andrew preparing a map of the students' locations

Andrew preparing a map of the students’ locations

We also touched on subjects such as: the great commission, the role of the Holy Spirit and prayer in church planting, praying strategically, and the goal of reaching whole families and households. One of the topics that took a large amount of our time, however, was looking at Jesus’ strategy for making disciples. In this, we talked about the parable of the four soils, studied Jesus’ instructions when he sent out the 12 and 72 disciples (Mt. 10 & Lk. 10), saw multiple examples in Acts of “people of peace” (Luke 10:6, i.e. “the good soil” of Luke 8), and discussed strategies for finding this good soil in Togolese villages. The students did several role plays of this as well, which was very beneficial, but also quite hilarious at times.

A map showing all our students from both trainings.

A map showing all our students from both trainings.

When it was all said and done, I think we helped these 25 guys take a giant step forward in getting them ready to make disciples of Jesus and form those disciples into healthy churches. There were several students who shared in front of the whole class how they normally judge, condemn, and criticize the people they are trying to reach because they don’t fit within their traditional “church box,” but that now they have been convinced that this is wrong and that they need to go with a spirit of humility and graciousness. It was encouraging to see the Holy Spirit doing his work through everything we worked so hard to prepare: the teaching, the object lessons, the DBS studies, and the interactive, hands-on elements.

We want to thank you so much for praying for this training, but please don’t stop! This is only the beginning of a year-long journey that we will take with these guys, and there is still a very long way to go.

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New training

We have been waiting a long time for this moment. Over eight months ago, Andrew and I had a vision to modify the training we were currently doing in order to equip Togolese believers more effectively to make disciples and start new churches. We quickly realized that this would involve creating our own curriculum that would be quite different from anything we had done before. We wanted to make this training more engaging, more hands-on, and more practical. With this in mind, we set out to create a curriculum that was much less about simply lecturing information to the students, but more about creating a learning environment where they discover and assimilate biblical truths and practical tools in an interactive way. Thus, each lesson has at least one object lesson of some sort (anything from escaping from handcuffs to ball toss games) that clearly illustrates the main truth of the lesson. We will also give the students ample time at the end of each lesson to write down a personal commitment of how the lesson will impact how they think, believe, act, or work in their ministry.

Our goal all along was the have the capacity to handle up to 30 students at one time in our trainings, but we have been pleasantly surprised to see that exactly 30 people registered for this new training. About half of them are from the regions we have been targeting since the beginning of our ministry: the Lamba and Tamberma people groups, while the other half come from a large denomination in Togo that has shown a great interest and openness to learn a different way to make disciples and plant churches. Most of those guys come from the Konkomba people group a bit west of the Lamba, so we’re excited about seeing our training impact a new area.

We are asking you to pray for this new training, which will take place this Wednesday through Saturday. Here are some specific things you can pray for:

  1. For the Lord to work in the students’ hearts and prepare them to receive these new ideas.
  2. For the students to walk in obedience to God’s Word when it comes to making disciples.
  3. For Andrew, Tchéou, Daré and me to be dependent upon and filled with the Holy Spirit as we teach.
  4. For physical and mental strength for the students and teachers. It’s a packed-out, intense four days, so the need for energy and stamina is huge!

Thank you in advance for your prayers, and we look forward to updating you about how it went!

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Oikos School Presentation

I’m in the middle of a whirlwind trip back in the States to raise awareness, prayer support, and financial help for the Oikos School for Church Planting. I gave a presentation on June 12 at our home church, Living Water Church, and wanted to post it here as well for those of you who follow our ministry but didn’t get the chance to be there or connect with me while I was back. Enjoy!

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