Modelling discipleship

A transformation occurred in the Androy region when the OM team implemented the Discovery Bible Study method and focused on developing local believers.

“We see the gospel changing lives, and we see also a multiplication of communities of Jesus followers who have an impact on their communities,” says Hanitra, regarding the impact of Discovery Bible Studies (DBS) over the past three years in southern Madagascar. In 2023, there were more than 150 communities of Jesus followers in the Androy region, where previously there were very few.

Over one million Tandroy people live among the 881 villages stretching across southern Madagascar. In 2013, when OM first began working in the area, the vast majority of people practised ancestral worship and had never heard of Jesus. Since then, the gospel has reached hundreds of villages — primarily through local believers who have been empowered and equipped to bring the good news of the Bible to their neighbours and relatives. Today, OM is focused on mentoring local leaders as they train and disciple Jesus followers to do the same in a continuous cycle.

Establishing Vibrant Communities of Jesus Followers (VCJFs) that are sustainable and reproducing was not an instant success. “We did a lot of work, but afterwards, we realised that the fruits didn't last,” Hanitra says, referring to the first few years of the initiative. While the team successfully shared the gospel with previously unreached villages, there was no lasting change, and individuals were not building relationships with God or each other. Many people who heard the gospel combined Christianity with ancestral worship.

A change towards discipleship

Through prayer, evaluation and reflection, Hanitra and the team decided to focus on discipleship through DBS; helping Jesus followers strengthen their personal relationship with God and, through mentorship, serve as models to others within their communities. That way, new believers had the opportunity to learn how to live a Christ-centred life and to tell others about Him.

Discovery Bible Study* is a method of studying the Bible in small groups that utilises simple but impactful questions to gain understanding. After reading a Bible passage together, participants are asked to retell the story in their own words and answer questions such as, “What does the passage tell us about God?” and “What does it tell me about people?” Lastly, participants answer, “If this is God's work in my life, how will I obey it?” and “Who am I going to tell this story to?” Not only is this time devoted to understanding more of God's Word, but there is also an emphasis on practically applying it in one's life and sharing the gospel.

One local Jesus follower struggled to form a group of believers who were passionate about spreading God's Word among the villages she visited weekly. Through one-on-one discipleship and training over the phone, Hanitra taught the woman how to lead a DBS group. Over time, the woman gained the confidence to lead Hanitra in DBS and ask her accountability questions before starting DBS groups in her community. Since then, four generations of DBS groups have formed through the women's leadership — 20 groups and counting!

Modelling discipleship 

Whether it be one-on-one or formal group coaching, Hanitra says, “in everything, I am modelling, not just teaching, but training and modelling.”

Opportunities to disciple are abundant outside of Bible study time. The Tandroy's main forms of subsistence are raising livestock and horticulture. Initially, farmers with livestock were hesitant to offer funds raised from their livestock to support the work of sharing the gospel. Focusing on modelling generosity, Hanitra began to sell her own livestock in her village to fund the team's travels to different villages. As news spread about her commitment to seeing God’s Kingdom furthered, people’s mindsets shifted from expecting to receive gifts to contributing to the gift of the gospel, even accommodating teams with livestock and offering their homes as places to stay.

Since focusing on discipleship, people across the Androy region have taken up Jesus' command of spreading the gospel upon themselves, and transformation has occurred. “There is a change first in their lives, and it's also inspired local communities,” explains Hanitra. When there was a drought, Jesus followers worked together to supply their communities with water. In another instance, people from a few villages came together to request permission from their mayor to clean up a road that had become too sandy for vehicles and people to use. “The mayor was very happy and very appreciative that they say, 'Oh, people serving Jesus are serving communities,'” says Hanitra. Communities of Jesus followers are living out their faith and actively being the hands and feet of Christ.

Please pray for the communities of Jesus followers in southern Madagascar; that they will continue to strengthen and disciple within and around their communities. Pray for financial support to allow OM workers to continue spreading the gospel and discipling believers to reach out to their friends and family.

*https://discoverapp.org/discovery-bible-study

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