Insights and Testimony from Leaders of Movements
“Bridges is the way forward for my country. One day soon the Bridges method will be the only way to share the gospel here. Persecution is increasing and it is very difficult for ministries to do crusades and big conferences. When people do open air preaching or use tracts they can face persecution. Even carrying or giving out Christian materials can get people arrested. When we tell stories, no one can say anything. I tell you that storytelling is the best and safest way for reaching our country. One day storytelling will be the only way for the church to sustain and multiply here.”
A network of about fifty leaders attended Bridges for Neighbors, our Muslim-focused training, in early 2019. Many have been using the earlier Bridges model successfully for many years, some for nearly 20 years. However, they were challenged and blessed by the new training. They had primarily been reaching and planting churches among animists and Hindu peoples and avoided their neighboring Muslim villages. Through this training, God helped them overcome their fears of reaching Muslims and gave them a desire and the tools to reach them. As a result of this breakthrough, the network leader suggested to the group that they set a goal of 50 new churches planted in Muslim villages in the next year. However, the leaders, who were trained, rejected that number and set a vision of 500 new churches planted among Muslims in 2019!
Our team returned the following October to lead the same network in a Bridges 2 for Neighbors training. The Holy Spirit had been moving in a mighty way. They reported leading 6,397 people to faith and planting 775 new storytelling house churches since January! These are primarily tribal people who are reaching into Muslim villages with the gospel at much personal risk!
The Power of One Story
During the first morning of a Bridges training, the class memorized the story of the “Call of Matthew.” (Matt 9:9-13) One of the men in the class had a small group meeting that night where he told and retold the story 3 or 4 times and helped everyone in the group memorize the story. He didn’t preach or explain the story, but instead asked questions about the story as he learned in that day’s training. The Holy Spirit led the group as they discovered truths from the story. There was a young Muslim woman and a young Hindu women who attended his small group that night for the first time. The Muslim woman was pregnant but not married. She broke down in tears during the story, “I am a sinner like Matthew and his friends. I want to follow this Jesus…” The Hindu woman also repented and started following Jesus as a result of hearing and believing this story from the Bible!
One of our West African indigenous trainers, who has been traveling and storytelling in many villages, told the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man to a native healer, or shaman, who listened intently. The shaman exclaimed, “That is me!” He repented and turned away from his old ways of sorcery and magic, placing his faith in Jesus. You can imagine the scene in his community when he gathered all his magic paraphernalia, threw it into the fire and watched it burn. He is now following Jesus and sharing the stories of Jesus with others.
Insights from Trainings
One of our SIU partners in a Southeast Asian country said, “I have been doing ministry for more than 30 years and this is the first time that our ministry has had this type of training. We wish we would have had this training years ago. Now we are going to focus on planting churches by using oral communication methods like Bible storytelling, drama, music, and poetry in the local language and style.”
We are amazed at what God is doing in East Africa. At a Bridges for Women training we had over 30 women, five of whom were formally prostitutes. They are now powerful Bible storytellers sharing with their neighbors.
Following a Bridges training in Ethiopia, a grassroots leader gave this testimony, “Telling stories is something that is embraced in our community. I have never thought of the Bible as a story book, but rather a preaching book where pastors come up with complicated topics each week. And that was one of the reasons why I never dared to share the gospel, thinking that I was never good enough to preach like that. After the Bridges training, I learned that it is The Holy Spirit that works within peoples’ hearts in making them understand the gospel. This takes a big burden off me and gives me confidence to share Bible stories and parables.”