One dictionary definition of consolidation is "to make strong or secure; strengthen". After the excitement of our initial two weeks of door-knocking, we deliberately decided to slow down and build strong foundations - following up on those who had either come to faith, or had at least been warm and welcoming.
Where opportunities permit, we look to start groups, embryonic churches, with both established and brand-new believers. We immediately train everyone in how to tell their own story, and how to share the Gospel, and help them think about who they could share with or train! Where the contact is warm, but uncommitted, we see where the relationship goes, always hoping to share Jesus with them. There is always the fear that people will have cooled in between visits, and indeed this does happen sometimes, which is always a disappointment. But sometimes we discover that when we return, God has been busy!
One lady we visited initially claimed to have no story to tell, and on 2 or 3 occasions when we went back for various reasons she could not meet with us - but last Wednesday evening she welcomed us in. The conversation included her son, a guy in his 30's whose life was going nowhere quickly! They both received the Gospel message with joy, and responded to our questions with humble delight.
"Would you like to receive forgiveness for your sins?"
Bowing his head, this young man who is well known to the local police, and has been battered by both life and acquaintances many times over, sheepishly and quietly replied, "yes, please." There and then mother and son surrendered their lives to Jesus, and a new church is born!
As we meet with new followers of Jesus, as well as training them, we take time to listen and allow their stories to unravel. We have learnt of a sister who committed suicide; a lady who years ago was involved in something so horrific she had only ever told three other people - and us; and celebrated with one new believer who for the first time in many years has not used cannabis since he gave his life to Jesus some weeks ago. As we step out, we discover time after time that we are merely catching up where God has gone before!
I mentioned last week that in Church Planting Movements we don't focus on "converts" but on baptisms, so it is a great thrill to be able to tell you about our first. Brian was the first person to respond to our door-knocking by giving his life to Jesus.
To be honest, the first time we went back, I half-expected him to tell us to go away - but he didn't, and each Friday afternoon since then we have met. Brian has an "interesting" history, and suffers from MS - so the Bible verse we gave him was 2 Corinthians 5:17 "Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new." Brian is a like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, moving into that new life in Jesus. But this is just the beginning, and eternity will see Brian freed from his MS-racked body, and free from the scars of his past.
Baptism is a beautiful symbol of being washed, cleansed, made pure and spotless, being raised to life. Most of those gathered commented on how privileged they felt to be present, and indeed this occasion was far removed from the showy baby baptisms I have often been part of with mumbled, half-hearted responses given by largely disinterested relatives.
Welcome to the family Brian - may you be the first of many!
After a break of two weeks with no updates, how is it all going - or have we come to a dramatic full stop? After two full-on weeks, with daily door-knocking and continuing follow-up, other commitments have meant that recently we have only been able to follow-up the warm contacts we made initially.
CPM quote figures, not of "converts", but of people baptised and churches planted. This makes good sense, as inevitably some people will make some kind of commitment to follow Jesus, but then either change their minds, decide they want no further contact with us, or feed into more traditional churches - which is fine. But T4T is all about training trainers, so the first thing we look for is people showing they are serious about following Jesus by obeying His command to be baptised. In New Testament times, people seem to have been baptised almost immediately - so we don't hang around either - our first baptism will happen next Friday, hopefully the first of many.
What about churches? Well I wouldn't claim that we have planted any yet! But as people become followers of Jesus, we immediately start training them, so that they in turn can train others...and so on. Firstly, we train people to tell their own story and God's story, and to identify their "oikos" - family and friends they can quickly talk to about Jesus. Then in their homes we meet weekly, and as they participate we model how to run training! Their family and friends help form the embryonic church.
So...one baptism planned, 5 groups (potential churches) running each week, with another 3 likely groups. But the exciting bit comes when these groups don't just grow, but multiply - generationally. Watch this space!
The people we have seen respond bring inevitable baggage. We have been introduced to drug-dealers, met parents hoping to take a baby into their care, and have been thrust firmly into the seedier side of Kiwi life. For the first time since we arrived in New Zealand, I feel that I belong, and that I am walking where Jesus walks.