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Ministries to Movements, Finishing the Finishables: Catalyzing International Student Ministries into Movements to Complete the Great Commission in Our Lifetime

Focus Statement by Dr. Yaw Perbi, Founding International Director, Kwiverr

 

We have an opportunity, an unprecedented opportunity, to reach the last and least of the lost right at our doorsteps. The majority of international students in the West come from the least gospel-penetrated regions of the world. These brightest and best of the nations have come to study, or so they think, but Almighty God has more than that in mind and so should we. For over a century now, the body of Christ has provided hospitality in various forms and seen many students come to profess faith in Jesus through a myriad of relationships and activities now generically know as International Student Ministries (ISM).  The father of Diaspora Missiology (he actually coined the term), Dr. Enoch Wan, who is advisor to Kwiverr, defines ISM as “Christians relationally carrying out missio Dei and Christian ministry to students from other countries, internationally” (Wan 2019, 8).

But we have a problem. ISM is not growing at a rate able to match the steep growth of the international education industry.  Lofty visions of “every international” being reached with the gospel abound on the national, continental and even global levels but none of these can happen without movements!  Moreover, a significant number of those who come to faith in the Lord do not survive, let alone thrive to reproduce disciple-making and church-planting movements among their unreached people groups in the host nation or back home.  In other words, the bucket that isn’t filling up fast enough is leaking at the same time!

Worst of all, many ISM workers have settled into an ‘ISM Industrial Complex,’ having found a system that ‘works’ and guarantees a livelihood, tickling our egos that we are doing good work and giving donors a sense that meaningful mission is happening, even with audiovisual evidence, yet merely pursuing the pursuables. If others are happy with the ‘ISM industrial complex,’ raising money, writing fantastic stories of hospitality and conversion at the front end and receiving a regular paycheck while the ultimate purpose of missional communities among the unreached globally isn’t happening, I am not. With all due respect, I gave up Medicine for more than this.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the body of Christ they are witnessing significant movements.[1]  A movement is a minimum of one thousand persons who have come to Christ within multiple streams to a fourth generation.  A fourth-generation church is one that came into being when new believers (first generation) won new believers to Christ (second generation) who in turn won new believers (third generation) who in turn won new believers incorporated into a spiritual fourth-generation small group or church (Moerman 2021,  xvi).  Imagine seeing families of internationals, their affinity and people groups coming to faith en mass and replicating themselves within those silos and across intersecting ones; not the individual extractions personal evangelism methods have produced over the last decades.

Many theories have been propounded and tweaks made here and there in ISM paradigms and praxes but we need comprehensive qualitative and quantitative research by reflective practitioners to effect deep, lasting and effectual change before the Church misses this kairos moment. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (Albert Einstein). The question my evolving doctoral research seeks to answer, therefore, is: what will it take for the ‘M’ in ISM to change from Ministry to Movements?

My calling is not to primarily to build mission organizations per se, let alone contribute to an industrial complex of several such, but to ignite Gospel movements.  Hence, I have resigned as President of International Student Ministries Canada to research the Contagious Disciple-Making (CDM) network, which as at a decade ago had witnessed a movement of 80,000 churches planted and 2 million baptized among the hitherto unreached Bhojpuri people of northern India (Watson & Watson 2014, xiii).  I would want to distill their successful practices into universal principles that are applicable in the ISM world to also experience what they have.  I have good relations with the Founder of CDM and have expressed to him the desire for this research.  I concur with the Watsons when they say, “catalyzing Disciple-Making Movements… requires disciple-makers to give up the spotlight.” In a sense, I’m sacrificing my comfort and status as ISMC president to pursue this movement matter.

To spread the word and implement my research findings and those of other ISM reflective practitioners, I have, in my capacity as Global Ambassador of ISMC and Lausanne catalyst for ISM, set up a consortium of mission organizations called Kwiverr.[2]  It comprises a think tank, incubators, labs and accelerators.  The incubators, labs and accelerators will be replicated into exemplary centres of excellence to catalyze disciple-making-leader-forming-church-planting-marketplace-impacting movements to close the Great Commission within our lifetime, Deo volente.

 

 

REFERENCES

Moerman, Murray. 2021.  Mobilizing Movements: Leadership Insights for Discipling Whole Nations. Littleton, CO: William Carey Publishing.

Wan, Enoch (Ed). 2019. Diaspora Missions to International Students. Portland, OR: Western Seminary Press.

Watson, David L., and Paul D. Watson. 2014. Contagious Disciple-Making. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[2] See www.kwiverr.org

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