Mt. Bethel Project-Update No. 37

How To Start A Church Planting Movement – The Role Of Suffering

I have always been a person who did not pay too much attention to those in the West who claimed they were suffering for their faith. While suffering for the cause of Christ is very real in our generation in other parts of the world, few of us really know what it means to suffer for our faith. After all, we live in the richest country in the world and we can freely express our beliefs. Not only are we free but the church is not really very powerful in our culture which means that our suffering for the cause of Christ is also not very powerful.

But since I started working toward a Church Multiplication Movement my views of Christians suffering for the cause of Christ have changed. I have been in this work towards multiplication long enough to know that many who enter into this work also enter into a new season of suffering.  I have witnessed this in my own life and in the life of others who are seeking to lead this work.

It is a risky venture to label what may be regular struggles of life as suffering for the Kingdom, but I have witnessed a number of times now the beginning of new suffering that is correlated with someone’s response to a call to seek to multiply the church.

The suffering that I have seen takes different forms. Some have suffered from direct spiritual attack, even to the point of having difficulty functioning in their daily routine.  Others have experienced new suffering in the lives of their children, and many have suffered from the onset of new physical illness.

There has also been significant onset of physical illness among those who have received the training for multiplication. I personally have witnessed several different occasions in which those who were trained in multiplication and ready to start a new church have been struck down with physical illness that prevented them from moving forward.

This suffering produces great stress and real pain in our lives. The apostle Paul describes his suffering with these words, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8). Those who have endured suffering for the cause of Christ can identify with these words and know the depths of this kind of pain.

Recently I was re-reading David Garrison’s booklet, “Church Planting Movements” and read this paragraph on suffering:

“Missionaries suffer

A list of missionaries who have been engaged in Church Planting Movements reads like a catalog of calamity. Many have suffered illness, derision and shame. In some instances the suffering was due to their own self-destructive behavior; in other cases it came at the hands of opponents. Students of Church Planting Movements suggest that the affliction may be related to a higher spiritual price required for rolling back the darkness (Rev. 12:12). Whatever the cause the disproportionate degree of suffering by missionaries engaged in Church Planting Movements is noteworthy. Missionaries intent on this course of action are well advised to be on their guard, to watch, fight and pray.”

How should we face suffering?

1. We should be willing to suffer as Jesus did

Jesus came to earth to redeem us from our sin, but redemption came at the price of his suffering “many things” we are told in Scripture.  We cannot grasp what the Bible means by these words “many things” but we understand that the cross was suffering and that he suffered to save us.

There are a number of Scriptures that encourage us in our sufferings by pointing out that suffering is something that we share with Jesus and these Scriptures call us to a willingness to suffer as he did.

1 Peter 2:21 – “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.”

2. We should respond to suffering by advancing our prayer life

We should continue to learn how to impact events on earth through bringing change in the heavenlies and how to move in the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

Matthew 16:19 – “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Philippians 3:10 – “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

3. We should find our comfort in Christ

2 Corinthians 1:5 says “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

4. We should continue…

– In our task

– Giving thanks to God

– Blessing others

…in spite of our pain because we’ve found our comfort in Christ

1 Peter 3:14 – “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened,”

1 Peter 4:19 – “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

5. We should look forward to full restoration

1 Peter 5:10 – “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

We take encouragement from the example of Job who was given twice as much as he had before his suffering. Recently I have been enjoying these words God gave through his prophet Joel, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25).

We wait patiently for those days.

Some months ago while Dawn and I were struggling with pain in our daughter’s life we came to a low point, a place where we thought we could not take anymore. Then another blow came through a phone call with news that was devastating to us. I remember the moment well, we were walking down a street, it seemed like we had at that moment passed the point of our ability to endure. At that exact moment we both looked up and saw a man walking directly toward us. On his shirt were these words in large letters, “Everything will be alright.”  It was the greatest “God moment” in all of our months of suffering. We both knew instantly that this was a message sent by God to us in our suffering. In hindsight we can look back and see God was at work at that exact moment when we were tempted to our deepest despair. God in his goodness was orchestrating events that could only be seen through the lens of looking backward in time.

This God was working for us when Jesus suffered on the cross, and is working for you and for many others as you seek to multiply the church.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary or lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3)

Report From The Field

Pastor Al Sones has been leading the Wilkes Barre District in what they call their Focus 17 project.  This is a project to multiply churches in the 17 counties of northeastern Pennsylvania.

They have been training workers in “Harvest Training Weekends.” These are events in which participants are trained in the the four stages of a Luke 10 journey to find a person of peace.

Here are the four stages to a Luke 10 Journey:

Meeting – How to meet a new person and discover if they are a person of peace

Moving – How to move the conversation toward spiritual things by telling your story and then God’s story

Ministry – How to share the Gospel pray for the sick in the family and pray for deliverance

Mapping – Gaining agreement on the next step that will be taken

So far the District has trained and sent out on Luke 10 journeys eighteen teams of two people.  They are now moving on to teach the discipleship lessons that need to be taught to new believers. They are gathering at a Retreat Center for a weekend to be trained in the new believer discipleship materials. Look for a report of this weekend in a future Mt. Bethel Update.

Be With Him…

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”

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