Though John grew up as an Arab Christian in the Middle East, he did things religiously without having a real relationship with God. “I always had a passion for prayer, but when my prayers for a huge family problem weren’t answered, I felt God didn’t care about me and I didn’t want to believe in Him anymore,” he shared.
Invited by friends to a church meeting, which he reluctantly agreed to attend, John felt in the prayer time the Holy Spirit telling him that this meeting was specifically for him. “It was my first time experiencing the reality of the Holy Spirit and God. I felt so much joy and sadness at the same time. I felt joy that I finally knew God but sadness because I wished I really knew Him earlier,” expressed John.
He then joined a Christian group while in university and transitioned into a staff worker upon graduation. John served in student ministry for fifteen years while also studying at a Bible School.
In 2015, John felt God leading him out of student ministry to serve other Arabs in countries with even fewer believers than his own Arab country. “I felt God telling me that He needed me to focus on discipleship. I saw that Jesus’ focus was mainly on discipleship. He invested almost all of His time on His twelve disciples,” John noted.
He then joined OM’s discipleship training school in the Near East and, once completed, joined the leadership team. John’s responsibilities include recruiting, training and mentoring Arab believers to serve in least-reached Muslim countries. He spends most of his time connecting with Muslim and Christian background believers, discipling them to disciple others.
"Our goal is to equip fellow workers to make disciples. It is not just about me making disciples, but others doing it simultaneously here and in other Muslim countries,” he shared.
When John met Rami,* a Christian refugee from a neighbouring country, in 2018, he was drawn to Rami’s passion for evangelism. “He wasn’t interested in the training school, but I still kept in contact with him and we built a close relationship,” said John. In late 2019, while John and his team were in Rami’s town getting ready to start a new class for discipleship training, he thought “now might be a good time for Rami to join.”
Though Rami wasn’t completely sold on the idea because of his lack of experience working within a team and past negative experiences with the church, he decided to say 'yes' because of his friendship with John. “I saw so many things in Rami mature as he went through the training. His heart for evangelism grew as he gained a greater understanding of the importance of discipleship and working with a team,” said John.
For Rami, the idea of discipleship was new. He was always passionate about sharing Jesus with as many people as possible, even when he was in his home country, and as soon as someone accepted Christ, he would quickly move on to the next new person. “When I learnt the concept of discipleship at the training school, I thought it was difficult to implement but still tried it out,” said Rami.
He first shared what he learnt with five of his friends––also believers from his home country––who lived in the same town as him. Once they became enthusiastic about discipleship, they immediately also started discipling their friends and family. “I saw that multiplication isn’t dependant on a specific person, but as I disciple these guys, they are discipling others and it continues to be passed on as everyone is making an impact,” Rami explained. He now sees that when one focuses on developing quality believers who are living as servants of Christ, multiplication naturally happens.
John further emphasised that living out the truth is the first most important thing. He shared that “the training shows us, that radical discipleship, it’s not just about the theory but rather about living out the truth and sharing that truth with others.”
While Rami and four other men in his training class are seeing multiplication through Discovery Bible Study groups, they also continue to be discipled themselves. Nonetheless, the journey of radical discipleship comes with many challenges. John expressed the disappointment they face when they have invested huge amounts of time in people, who unexpectedly no longer want to meet or study the Bible. “It’s really hard for them after spending so much time with people and praying for them to see it all just end abruptly for whatever reason. That is the time when we have to encourage each other and trust God even more,” said John.
Investing time in discipling someone is key to seeing quality multiplication for John and his team. He notes that this means sacrificing a lot of his time not just to study the Bible with others but also to share his life with them while additionally giving time to his own family. “Discipling radically is honestly time-consuming," John explained. "You are not just meeting with these guys to read the Bible. You are meeting them for meals or to just talk and listen to them, which can take hours. You are opening up your life to them and sharing in all their joys and struggles.” Despite the challenges, John understands that his life on earth is limited and giving all of it for the glory of God is his greatest joy.
Pray for John’s team to have strength and grace as they live a life of radical discipleship. Pray also for others to join the new 2021 discipleship training programme.
Published: Tuesday, 12 January 2021
Credit: Ava Moore