My reflection for 2023 has two big headlines: what God did on the ground and the people like you who made it possible.
As far as the Kingdom impact, the results are simply stunning! Over 15,000 new churches were started, and 200,000 new disciples joined the family of God.
One of these was a young man named “Achmed.” Achmed is not his real name, and I can’t tell you where he lives because his country is dominated by radical Muslims and his journey with Jesus will likely always be in the “valley of the shadow of death.” I have never met Achmed, but I did see a video of his baptism. It was awe-inspiring and sobering at the same time.
Two brothers stood on either side of Achmed. One held a teapot and the other a basin. They asked him about his commitment to love and follow Jesus. After Achmed affirmed that this was his heart’s desire, he bowed his head and one brother poured the teapot of water over his head while the other caught the water in the basin.
If this baptism had been public, chances are very good that Achmed’s first act of following Jesus would have been his last.
The Numbers We’re Seeing
As difficult as these circumstances are, it is not hard to imagine one person coming to faith.
But what about 200,000? I was talking to a long-term friend of mine who said, “I have known you and supported the ministry for decades. I believe what you say is true, but it is still hard for me to believe the numbers. How is this possible?”
Believe me, I get it. I interact with these stories and statistics every day, and yet there are still sometimes I have to pinch myself to see if I am dreaming. It’s like watching a movie about the Book of Acts with never-ending sequels. The names and places change, but the storyline remains the same in all the subsequent installments.
And with that in mind, I actually went back to the book of Acts and looked for how many times the Holy Spirit brought about explosive growth. Pentecost would be first on the list. The Church was born with 3,000 and within days it was at 5,000.
Following that, I found 26 more times when God caused things to go “Boom” and big numbers of new believers were the result. My conclusion was that we really shouldn’t be surprised by big numbers when God is on the move.
But when I thought about it a little more, I asked myself, “What did things look like after Acts?” The answer is things moved from the “big bang” out in the open to grassroots movements underground.
Disciple Making Movements
Explosive growth was decentralized. Instead of big numbers happening in one place, lots of little growth was happening in many places. It is a really different thing to imagine 200,000 new believers in one place versus 200,000 new believers scattered in 10,000 villages.
And because it is all about little things happening in lots and lots of places, we actually have a team of 31 people whose full-time job is to measure the quantity and evaluate the quality of what God is doing so that we can give accurate reports to folks like you.
But explosive growth is only part of the story. Here are some additional highlights from 2023:
- We are now shepherding over 200 “movements” (minimum of 100 churches with 4 generations of replication).
- The number of indigenous leaders has grown to over 23,000 (98% of these serve without receiving any money).
- We have launched audio Bible translation for illiterate and/or oral cultures in 160 pioneer languages.
- We now have 1,300 indigenous partners. Almost all of these did not have reproductive results and now they do!
Thank You for Your Support
These things and so much more happened because faithful men and women pray and obey. Some by doing and some by giving. But the folks on the ground can’t do what they do without you.
It’s a three-way partnership: the power of God, the service of His people, and the prayer and giving of the support team. Like a tripod, you can’t have one leg short or missing. Thank you for the irreplaceable role you play.
And what about next year? Faith is based on trusting God to do what only He can do. But faith grows through the experience of watching God do more than you thought possible. I believe the days ahead will be far greater than the days behind.