So last week some co-workers and I were in India for tourism. We visited a number of incredible sights, like the Taj Mahal, and Bohd Gaya. People were incredible nice and welcoming. We were blessed to come across some gifted followers of Jesus and had a few days to get to know them. We were amazed with the simplicity of their faith, and the powerful example that the set for us as Christian leaders. Here are a few things that surprised us.
1. Most of the Christian's we met came to faith in Jesus in response to a miraculous healing. Many said things like, "I was very sick. Someone prayed for Jesus to heal, me and He did. So I believed in Jesus." One leader to me that over 90% of new Christians in India relate miraculous healing or demonic deliverance as a part of their testimony.
2. We found that many believers are sharing with friends, neighbors, family, and co workers 5-10 times a week. We were so challenged because we are trying to get our fellow believers to share their faith 1 a week and often no one does.
3. We found that many believers are spending more than 1-2 hours of daily prayer and devotion to God's Word. Again we are working to encourage fellow believers to spend 1 hour a day in devotion and prayer. Many times I fail at this goal. We even met believers who spent more than 3 hours daily.
My friend summarized the simple believers faith in two words. He said, "they Abide and Obey". They seek God daily at length (Abide) and they do what they find in God's word (Obey). It seems so easy when you think about it like that. "Jesus healed me so I believed in Him and I tell everyone what happened to me." That sounds just like the story of the demoniac found in Mark 5. He went away and told everyone what he had experienced and the mercy Jesus had shown on him.
We asked leaders how they are able to keep things so simple. It is easy to open the Bible and find many instructions, commands, and examples of complex religious traditions. The Jews had a 2000+ year old faith and many traditions that encouraged good behavior and right thinking, but Jesus struggled to relate to that system. Often Jesus' harshest critics were the Jewish religious leaders. When we asked the leaders in India how they kept things simple, they said that before they add new teachings, ministries, or even discipleship tools they ask 3 questions:
1. Is it simple? Do you need significant resources to duplicate this ministry or tool?
2. Is it Biblical? Can we see Jesus or the Disciples using a similar tool in scripture?
3. Is it Reproducible? This means can we teach new believers to do this very quickly. Quickly as in one or two trainings?
They said that they would evaluate ministry options with these three question and only pursue new opportunities that passed all three questions.
One Example: The leaders told us that one of the leaders had worked with a medical mission team in another part of India. When they were trying to find opportunities to engage new communities they considered inviting a team of medical professionals to visit villages performing medical assessments and treating patients. You may know that this is a very common "entry strategy" in the world of short-term missions.
First they asked these questions:
Is it simple? They shared their assessment... honestly it is not. You need Dr.'s and Nurses to do a medical mission team. Often you need medicines and referral options...
Is it Biblical? Yes Jesus healed many and cares about the hurting.
Is it Reproducible? In some ways, others have done it, but it does need a lot of financial resources for the medicines and transporting the team.
They assigned a value to each question. For each positive number they gave 1 point. In this instance they said that it was Biblical but was not simple or reproducible. So it received a 1 out of potential 3 points. They decided that they should look for a better tool.
The leaders then said that they took this assessment method and applied it to every ministry that they taught young leaders to explore. So if they were church planters, they would ask these questions before starting a worship team, or children's ministry, youth ministry, missions opportunities, and so on.
We were so blessed by their honesty and vulnerability. Our own ministries are so very complex, and we struggle to find faithful followers of Jesus. These Indian followers have so little, and yet even with this simplicity, they are so very faithful!
Take a few minutes and think through the ministries that you lead, volunteer in, and champion. Are you actually helping Jesus' people to follow Him better or are you adding layers of complexity and cost to something that can be much free-er and thus free-ing. Do you need printed books and materials, do you need large buildings and classrooms, do you need projectors, laptops, and professional musicians... if so, you may be a little to complex to reproduce followers of Jesus who can reproduce followers of Jesus.