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Friday, November 22, 2013

The Transforming Power of Water and the Word
Kingdom Principles in Disciple Making

By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International
Special to ASSIST News Service

HOUSTON, TX (ANS) -- Why would Jesus leave a large crowd of people on one side of a lake, in order to help one man on the other side of the lake? Why would He take the time to reach out to social outcasts, like the demon-possessed Gerasene or the Samaritan woman at the well? Why would Jesus go into a community and destroy its economic system? What can we learn from the fact that Jesus rebuked the wind and spoke to the waves? Do His words still have power today to change things and transform people? Do our words have power to bring change?

Behavior change happens more effectively by oral methods, than by literate, Western methods

These are a few of the questions that generate profitable conversations in our Orality Training Workshops. When we consider the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth, we discover a very different way of measuring success or determining what really matters and who is important to God. Kingdom principles in disciple making are best understood by studying the life, teachings and Spirit of Jesus, rather than our modern, Western ways of determining success and accomplishments.

The stories of the demon-possessed man from Mark 5, the blind beggar from Mark 10 and the Samaritan woman from John 4 all have great lessons about who is important to God. They all give us some understanding about who the Lord chooses to use in His kingdom work. The Gerasene man and the Samaritan woman were both used to bring transformation to a community and an entire region.

In our Orality Training Workshops, we highlight some principles of the kingdom of God where Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, a very small seed that produces a large plant. He also said that the kingdom of God is like yeast, a small amount of yeast can affect a large lump of dough. Throughout Church history and in many places in Scripture, we see this principle demonstrated. Little things can make a big difference when Godís hand is on them. While quantifiable results are important, we should recognize that in Godís economy, just one transformed life can have great impact on many others.

One of the important conversations that we have is about true worth and value in the kingdom of God. We observe from the story-set how Jesus engaged with, interacted and communicated with others. Think about the type of people He reached out to. Using questions to bring out the messages, lessons and applications from the stories has a powerful impact. Jesus reached out and engaged with all kinds of people, perhaps some who the disciples, and many people today, might consider not worth His time and effort.

Clean water often opens the door to share the Living Water of Jesus

From those encounters, most people conclude that all people matter to God. All people have value to Him and have a place in His kingdom work. He uses women, children, blind beggars, demon-possessed people and all others who are available to Him. An important lesson we learn is that our value, worth and usefulness to God is not based on our ability, performance or possessions. Our true worth and value are based on the price that was paid for us -- the very life of Christ. That makes every person a VIP (very important person) in the sight of God.

After much discussion around these topics, we come to some very important conclusions. Based on a new understanding of worth, value and usefulness to God, we consider what that means in terms of how we should relate to and reach out to others. It is amazing how people often come alive with new insights and understanding of how God wants to use each and every one of us.

I recently reconnected with a man I had shared the gospel with and who had come to Christ more than 25 years ago. After coming to the Lord, he was responsible for his sister, brother-in-law and several other family members coming to Christ. As a result of his conversion, he ended up changing careers and became a pastor. Many have come to the Lord through his ministry over the years.

A Living Water worker in Central America, who had been trained in Orality methods of evangelism and disciple making, reported that he is now conducting one Orality Training Workshop every month, with an average of 50 in attendance at each workshop. He shared how he and others he trained are using orality and storying methods at water projects and in the communities where LWI works, and that an average of 200 people a month have professed faith in Christ. It is encouraging when we recognize the impact that the little (and seemingly insignificant) things that we do and say can have such a huge impact on so many peopleís lives.

Children learn about the importance of clean water and clean hearts

Throughout Church history, as well as in biblical accounts, we have many examples of how one changed life has transformed families, communities and even nations. The Story of the Ethiopian eunuch, as recorded in the book of Acts, is a great example of how an entire nation was evangelized and transformed by the movement of the Spirit through a single life. Interestingly, many powerful movements have occurred as a result of a simple, reproducible message spreading from person to person by oral methods that have shaped lives, families and communities for thousands of years.

While it is a great blessing in the modern world to have literate and technological resources, it is still the simple stories and methods that allow the Good News of Jesus to go to every place and every people group on the planet. Ultimately, it is the presence and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit in the lives of ordinary believers and followers of Jesus that demonstrates the principles of the Kingdom. It is not our abilities, talents or natural gifts, but our availability to the Lord that produces lasting fruit.

The Living Water that Jesus spoke of in Johnís Gospel, chapters 4 and 7, is a wonderful picture of the outflowing of the indwelling life of God the Holy Spirit. It is the ongoing redemptive activity of the rivers of Living Water-- the Holy Spirit-- that is available to each of us who make ourselves available to Him. He is no respecter of persons and desires to demonstrate His great power and plan in the world today. The fact is that the Good News of Jesus came to each of us on the way to someone else. It is intended to be shared with others. A friend of mine often shares this departing comment, ďKeep the faith, but donít keep it to yourself.Ē

The joy of learning in community, good for the Western world as well as the more communal, relational, oral cultures

It is a great comfort to realize that the Holy Spirit is at work in peopleís lives in ways that we may not immediately recognize. I recently engaged a young man in an Asian country in a conversation and asked if he was familiar with Jesus of Nazareth. He is from an Eastern religious background and expressed an interest in knowing more about Jesus. In fact, he said his sister had become a follower of Jesus. That brief initial conversation resulted in a series of conversations as he showed a genuine interest and desire to know more about Jesus. He told me he would discuss this with his sister and consider following Jesus himself.

Those short comments about Jesus have often led to transformational experiences. God has already prepared many hearts, and as we engage and bring the Lord into our conversations, we can see God at work and discover that many already have a thirst for the Living Water of Jesus. A man in an East African country shared about telling stories in a community where one man came to Christ; then his family, and eventually the whole community, embraced the gospel. We seldom know when we sow the seed of Godís Word, when it will fall on good soil and produce 30, 60 or 100 times what is sown.

I love that saying that you can count the seeds in an apple, but you canít count the apples in a seed. The ripple effect of one transformed life can go on and on. From the stories of the Samaritan woman and the demon-possessed Gerasene, we see how whole communities and regions can be impacted by one changed life. Church history is filled with many of these amazing stories.

I was recently in a South Asian country where Living Water International has conducted orality training with a few hundred pastors, church leaders and others. We were told that several thousand people have now received some kind of orality training by those who LWI trained, which is really a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God working through His people. He can use both His spoken Word and His written Word to spread the Good Story of Jesus.

Years ago I worked with a ministry with outreach efforts into places that would be considered closed countries. (Of course we realize there are really no closed, but just creative access, countries). This country was occupied by an atheistic communist country at the time, which was assigning known believers in Jesus to military duty there. As it turned out, we discovered that about two dozen Bible studies were being led by the troops stationed in that country. God has a way of getting His message to the difficult places, if we seek His plan and trust Him.

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Jerry Wiles serves as president emeritus of Living Water International ( Living Water is one of the worldís leading faith-based water solutions organizations with operations in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Having gotten involved in orality-based evangelism and disciple making strategies in the 1980s, he has been a paradigm pioneer in the orality movement and presently serves on the advisory council of the International Orality Network. Wiles has more than 35 years experience in ministry and international mission work. He can be contacted at

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