A while back, when I was an Online Pastor at Christ Fellowship Miami, I received an email from someone in Kenya. We've all been there, right? The Prince in Kenya who needs $50,000 wired to him so he can gain access to his $20million. Wire him a loan, and he'll share his wealth. I vividly remember starting to click on the "junk" icon in gmail when I realized: this guy isn't asking for money. This guy wants to be discipled!
What came from that email became what I think is one of the greatest Church Online stories I've ever heard... where Church Online became a resource to empower true discipleship on the other side of the planet, and watched as multiple generations of churches were impacted..
Rather than tell the story myself, I've asked Mike Christian to tell it. At the time, Mike was the Online Campus Small Groups Director at Christ Fellowship.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Mike Christian.
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The Power of the Church Online to Reach Every Nation, Tribe, and People
Patrick, a paramedic, and his wife, a teacher, live in Nairobi, Kenya. They started a church in their home and then shifted to a rented space in a poor area of the city when the church outgrew their home. Patrick realized that he needed training and Bible teaching to effectively lead the new church and minister to the new believers at the church. He began watching the online services of a church in the U.S. and submitted an online connection card.
Serving as the online small group director, I responded to Patrick and began to develop a relationship with him via online video calls. Patrick let me know that the greatest need for the new church in Nairobi was discipleship training. We began meeting by video call weekly. During these meetings, I taught him the discipleship course that we were using to develop online small group leaders. Patrick recognized the value of the course and enthusiastically participated every week. We developed a pattern in which I would go through one lesson with Patrick each week. Then, Patrick would teach the lesson to his congregation each week. The believers appreciated the teaching and grew in their faith.
After completing the initial course, Patrick wanted to continue receiving training, so we worked through a discipleship course developed by missionaries in Asia for use in the field. This course includes Old and New Testament surveys and a simple hermeneutic tool that believers can use to gain greater insight from Bible passages. Patrick found this course to be useful and began teaching it on weekday evenings and Saturdays. He also began using the knowledge and tools he learned to develop messages for the weekly worship services.
Between our weekly video calls, Patrick and I kept in touch by WhatsApp, sharing prayer requests, praise reports, pictures, and videos. Patrick also shared information about the church start.
The church that Patrick started has been growing by about five people every week, and there have been about three new salvations each week. Currently, around seventy adults plus seventy children attend services each week. One week, one hundred and seventy people attended. The church has already outgrown the rented space, and people stand outside to listen to the services. The church plans to baptize twenty-two people as soon as the rainy season and floods stop, and the temperature is warm enough to wade into a river.
The church has also been engaging in outreach events, such as visiting people in hospitals, providing for families in need, and teaching people to make crafts that can be sold for income. Patrick uses his medical training to provide free medical services to street children. His wife bakes and sells cakes to raise money for the medicines the children need. Through this ministry, he has been able to cure or prevent diseases that, though easily treated with appropriate medication, could be life-threatening for children living on the street. When Patrick and his wife go to the market, the children they have treated often gather around them and cheer.
While going through the discipleship courses with Patrick, I not only taught him the lessons, but also trained him to teach the lessons to reliable people who in turn could teach them to others (2 Timothy 2:2). Therefore, in addition to teaching the church in Nairobi, Patrick began training other pastors to teach the lessons. On one occasion, he traveled to another country and taught forty pastors to give the training he had received. He also traveled to South Sudan to share the Gospel (a lesson in one of the discipleship courses), and twenty-nine people became followers of Jesus. During a trip to Uganda, he taught the discipleship course to five churches.
I have been amazed by the extent that the training provided online has multiplied. The training given to one person via video calls has multiplied to reach and benefit church leaders and believers in several nations and expand God’s Kingdom even though I have not personally met Patrick or visited Kenya.
I have been surprised and pleased by the close relationship that Patrick and I have been able to develop despite not meeting personally. In addition, our families have spoken on video calls and developed relationships. We share prayer requests and pictures.
Online technology provides a valuable platform for helping believers grow in their faith, growing the church, and reaching every nation, tribe, and people (Revelation 7:9).
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Church, is this not a perfect picture of the New Testament Church? Patrick connected to Mike through a weekend service online... but that service was the front door to something much more beautiful. The discipleship that happened... the fact that Patrick took that knowledge of the Gospel to share with other people, and other pastors, is phenomenal. How many people have been impacted due to Patrick's faithfulness? How many people have heard the gospel because Mike took the time to train Patrick?
How many more are there like Patrick who need training, discipling? I'm not even talking about Africa. There are "Patricks" walking among us, on this continent, in your city, waiting to be trained, discipled... empowered to share the Gospel.
Church, the challenge is this: To do effective ministry, to disciple, online... it's more than just broadcasting a service on Sunday. We have the potential to not only reach the world, but disciple them with the Gospel so they can share with others. Church Online works best not when it does ministry, but when it disciples, when it empowers, others to do ministry.
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