One of the most encouraging things for me this year has been observing the development of movements in various countries of Central and Eastern Europe. They are all different and amazing.
Maybe one of the most unique movements is taking place among the Roma in several countries. When I visited a community of Roma in Montenegro, I was struck by their joy. Contagious joy. Roma express extravagant hospitality as they open their homes and invite their friends and relatives to celebrate what God is doing in their lives. All the singing and dancing is an expression of the Lord’s joy in them.
A friend of mine from Romania posts stories almost every dayof conversions, community worship, or baptisms (sometimes in very difficult conditions) on his Facebook page.
…and the Lord is adding to their numbers… (just like in the book of ACTS). God is at work among this people group.
One of the leaders of this movement has marked a map with “multiplying” communities in green and “addition” communities in red. When I asked him what made the difference – why some communities were multiplying and some not – he put it this way,
“The error has been that some church and organization leaders have not understood and trusted the work and capacity of the Holy Spirit enough to allow the Gypsies to evangelize themselves. These leaders and pastors have hindered development and revival by imposing their rules and non-Gypsy mentality.”
That was tough to hear.
But it reminded me of the book of Acts, which the ALT has been studying this ministry year. I like to call it the guidebook for the GCM leader. Every time I read it, I gain new impressions and takeaways. This time I was impressed by chapter 8.
One of the most significant little phrases in this chapter is in verse 4, “…they who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”
Who was scattered?
LIGHT BLUE = Spread of Christianity up until AD 325 DARKER BLUE = Spread of Christianity up until AD 600
Not the apostles — they stayed in Jerusalem (v.1). “All were scattered, except the apostles” (v.1)
It was everyone else, the “laypeople,” not the clergy, who were scattered.
So how did Christianity spread from a handful of people into every corner of the Roman empire in just 300 years, so that even leaders were converted and that old pagan culture became a Christian society? And why did Christianity triumph in a world of dozens and dozens of competing religions and philosophies with far more influential adherents?
I believe it is because every Christian evangelized wherever they went.
Apparently, when the Christians were all together under the powerful and gifted leadership of the apostles, they were fairly passive in their ministry. They had simply brought their friends to hear the “great preaching” at the church in Jerusalem. But when they were scattered, away from their leaders, they gathered up the courage to communicate what they had learned.
The result was that, though they were probably less eloquent than the apostles, they were in the end more effective.
Because lay people (being 100 times more numerous than “professionals”) can reach more folks, and because a lay person’s testimony often has a more authentic ring to the listener than a well-polished articulate speech.
This is one of the key practical differences between the other belief systems and Christianity. Evangelism was not a job only for the clergy, but every believer was called to take part in the Great Commission, because every believer was indwelt by the Holy Spirit and used by Him. The Apostles modeled this lifestyle through their lives and teachings.
The movement among the Roma people today is a just a reminder of the power of the Holy Spirit. He can use lay people yielded to Him as effectively, or sometimes even in greater ways than “professionals.” If a ministry is over-controlled and managed by missionaries, it can be hindered or stopped, but once we learn how to release the ministry into the hands and power of the Holy Spirit, the movement begins and grows.
As you think of the movement you are involved in, what is the greatest hindrance you face in empowering and releasing ministry into the hands of the volunteers (lay people) involved?