5 months ago Mandate Schools sent a team for 6 weeks. One young guy – just a normal church kid back home – did something heroic. He met two families broken with sin, shared a message of hope for a better life, and baptized the men as repentant converts. The women remained skeptical.
Yesterday I sat with these two families (the women are no longer skeptical), sharing a Bible story with them that I will later share with our weekly “Leaders Meeting”. They will assist. They are being trained to lead their own Bible study at their home. Another family is being trained in the next village, and another in the next. Our short term goal is to get one Convert led Bible study in each village that all of our disciples from that village may participate in. Eventually many more such simple churches may hive off from that one. Our method – MAWL: Model, Assist, Watch, Leave. This is part of our “100 year strategy” – training converts to lead “church” in their homes.
The Leaders meeting that they were to assist in – well, again it became a hilarious, unpredictable event of attempting by all means – and we have exhausted many means – to get the meat of the gospel powerfully ingrained in lives. We tried (a second time) a Storying method where each person makes hand signals for a line of the story, then with much group repetition the story is memorized (in theory). Not that this method does not work – many have usesd it with great success. But again we find that either well intentioned teachers of Methods are exaggerating their own stories for personal glory (yes, there is pride even in missionaries!) or we are somehow not able to do what others have done because of our inadequacies or the difficulty of the people group we are working with. (In fact we heard a report that the International Mission Board (of the Baptist Church) – a cutting edge board that has in recent years reworked it’s strategy after exhaustive research to focus more on simple church planting methods which we have also adopted – has made a statement concerning the Lozi people of Southern and Western Zambia, that they are one of the most difficult groups to work with, and therefore have adjusted their strategy to reach them.)
So – back to the Leaders Meeting – after working hard at memorizing that passage we all sat and started with questions – first comprehension of the story itself, but then questions of understanding of the life messages in the story. It was the simple story of Phillip running to the chariot and instructing the Ethiopian about Christ and the resulting baptism. Sparks flew! The New Apostolic Church teaches infant baptism, that a person is saved by baptism (not faith), and that at baptism the person is born again and filled with the Spirit as the apostle imparts it. However, none of them feel assured of going to heaven – perhaps a teaching to allow them to extort more indulgences from them. The whole group openly discussed the conflicting views. One person in particular seemed to be arguing the NAC positions. But by the next day we heard from that person that he went to work and told all his friends that in fact their understanding of baptism and impartation of the Spirit were totally false! We will see how many want to be baptized in two weeks at our Celebration Service.