In 1977 Paul Okken, a Baptist missionary to Rwanda, returned from Africa for medical treatment. During the most recent five years of his ministry, 60 new churches had been started, and the number would climb to 80 by 1980.
How did it happen?
Once day before the planting had begun, Okken was driving, overlooking a huge valley inhabited by many tribal people. He felt a burden for all the people living in the clusters across the valley. With a deep sigh he prayed, “Oh God, what is to become of these lost people?” Unexpectedly, from the empty passenger seat beside him he heard the answer, “Ask Me for them.”
Unaccustomed to hearing such voices, Okken dismissed the matter and continued his drive. He came to another bend in the road overlooking the valley. Once more he was compelled to ask the question, “Lord what’s to become of these people?” A voice replied again, “Ask Me for them.”
Okken decided to test this voice. “God if this is really from you. I’ll go down there and preach—if even one person is converted, I’ll feel you’re guiding me and I’ll spend more time preaching here.”
Eleven adults responded to their first hearing of the gospel. It was the beginning of a great harvest.
Through one missionary and his workers, 80 churches were started with this simple New Testament methodology: whenever a person came to Christ they assumed God wanted a body of believers there. At the first convert, the missionary team did not know if they had uncovered a hand or leg. So they would continue evangelising, until they could discern enough of a body with its various functioning parts, to make a viable church.
It’s simple: every time there is a new convert, you have discovered an elbow, a kneecap, or a nose. The assumption is that the rest of the body must be nearby and a church will emerge through evangelising a convert’s network of relationships. Through any one person, you can find the seeds of a new church.
By 1985 a total of 160 churches had been planted.
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