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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Baptisms and Persecution in Warango

Just two weeks after attending the baptisms of some believers in Aumalo, we were invited to come to the village of Warango in the heart of the Tamberma region, where another one of our students, Philippe, started a church around nine months ago.

As we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to see such a large group gathered under a shade tree worshipping Jesus before we marched off 2.5 miles to the nearest water. As you can see from the video, the people seem to genuinely love singing praise to their Savior!

Unfortunately, not everyone was so happy to see this gathering and hear of the upcoming baptisms. A regional pastor of a large denomination showed up just before we left for the baptisms, and he pulled a couple women out of the group and began questioning them. I approached him and gently asked him what the problem was, and he immediately became angered and began yelling and causing quite a scene. The whole church noticed what was going on and began watching the spectacle. Four of our Oikos students were there, and they stepped in and began arguing with him, but I was glad to see that they kept their cool. It turns out that he was accusing Philippe of “stealing” his church members, but we later discovered that the three women who had once attended one of his churches left the church on their own and decided to come to Philippe’s church in Warango because it is in their own village whereas their old church was a two mile walk each way. On top of that, the church had no local leader, and this regional pastor only showed up every eight months or so to collect all the tithes and offerings they had saved up so he could line his own pockets. In fact, this pastor is known all around the area for being what Jesus refers to as a hireling, one who leads God’s people merely for personal gain. One church in a neighboring village that used to be under his oversight told him that if he ever came back to one of their meetings, they would literally chase him off! Jesus was very clear that persecution will come from the world, but that wolves would be present even within the church as well, so this is not something that we are shocked or surprised by. But please pray for wisdom as we navigate how to deal with not just this man, but also with his denomination.

Everyone was a bit shaken up following this unwelcome interruption, but by the time we got down to the river we were all very excited to get on with the baptisms. It was a great encouragement for me to see two of our students, Philippe (on the right in the video) and N’tcha (on the left), standing in the water. We have invested hours of teaching, mentoring, counseling, and prayer in both of these guys, and the fruit of our labor was clearly seen through the fruit of their labor. This was Philippe’s first time ever baptizing, and N’tcha had only done it two weeks prior, and that in itself was a huge step in their growth. In the church culture here, no one is allowed to baptize unless they have been to a denominational seminary and been ordained as a pastor. We have been teaching the students, however, that Jesus gave each and every disciple all the authority they need to baptize when he commanded us to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey his commands. It is such a blessing to see these men empowered by the truths of the Word of God to go and make disciples of Jesus!

Please pray for this church in Warango that they continue reaching their village and that they stand firm in spite of any type of persecution that may come.

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