Archives For discipleship

Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

It’s a question I’m asked often:

Aren’t you basically providing financial incentives to get people to convert to Christianity?

At HOPE, we’re passionate about combining two objectives some view as unrelated, even dangerous: 1) promoting sustainable poverty alleviation and 2) clearly inviting others to love and follow Jesus Christ. But at the same time, we are careful not to trick, mislead, or coerce anyone into making a false profession of faith for the simple reason that Jesus didn’t.

In John 6, Jesus is being chased around the Sea of Galilee by a large crowd. He’s healed terrible diseases, fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes, and taught with great authority. Things were going so well the crowd was planning to make Him king by force. In modern language, Jesus was a rock star.

What would you have been thinking if you were one of the disciples? “Surely this is the moment. You’ve got them eating out of your hands … literally! Use your power to make them follow you.”

But in one of the countless ways Jesus defies expectations, He doesn’t capitalize on His fame. Desiring true disciples over admiring crowds, He proclaims harder—even potentially offensive—teachings. The result?

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Each year, HOPE celebrates a client who demonstrates HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award winner. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the stories of this year’s honorable mentions and overall winner.

For Marilyn Ciprian, serving God as a businesswoman means dedicating each day—and each transaction—to the Lord. “May God bless this day and multiply things in accordance with His glory,” she writes each morning in her account book. Thus begins her search for opportunities to serve Christ as she opens her convenience store—appropriately named La Gran Comision or “The Great Commission”—in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic.

marilyn-01

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HOPE Rwanda

Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

  • In Asia, one HOPE client led 38 people in her rural village to Christ in two years.
  • In the Philippines, another woman built relationships with over 100 people who now come with her to Sunday church services.
  • A woman in California with only a second-grade education has started discipleship groups that are now reaching hundreds in her community.

If we’re honest, stories like these produce a mix of emotions for many of us. On one hand, we’re encouraged, inspired, and thankful. But in that same moment, there is often a subtle whisper:

I could never do that.

Do you ever feel that way? That stories of amazing transformation must come from uniquely gifted people who have figured out just the right methods to share Christ?

At HOPE, spiritual impact comes as God uses staff and clients to reach others. And just like you and me, these men and women realize they are imperfect messengers. They have family challenges, financial pressures, and personal battles with sin. The enemy works hard to tempt them to think, “I can’t really help others follow Jesus. I can’t be bold. Someone else, someone better, should do that.”

But freedom, boldness, and multiplication are exactly what God desires.

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Bible study in the Philippines

Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

My 8-year-old son loves to put things together—Legos, rockets, robots, planes, you name it. Bonus points if the project has the potential to blow up or threaten your family’s physical safety. While danger seems to be its own reward, what he really loves is dreaming about the finished product and following a plan to turn that dream into concrete reality.

At HOPE, our dream is to see the Kingdom of God come in its fullness in some of the most difficult environments in our world. We long to see as many people as possible find their soul’s satisfaction in Christ and become dignified, hope-filled change agents in their families and communities. But how do we practically go about integrating faith with finance?

Discerning the right approach to disciple-making is challenging because Jesus did not prescribe a step-by-step process. But we’ve found that without a model, confusion abounds and intentionality suffers. So we think of models as bones in the body: The bones don’t bring life, but they provide structure for the vital organs that do.

So what is HOPE’s model? In every program:

  1. We disciple our staff. This happens every week through staff prayer, Bible studies, and life-on-life discipleship. Every day across the globe, our team is seeking God together. Our love for God and conviction that we cannot accomplish our mission without His power fuel our commitment to mutual discipleship.
  2. We offer discipleship opportunities within our microenterprise services. This includes loan disbursements, repayment meetings, savings group meetings, and trainings. Our approach differs based on the type of service and the country we serve in, but we are unified in our commitment to share truth from the Bible, encourage questions and discussion, and never coerce or incentivize anyone in the process.
  3. We partner with the local church to make disciples who multiply. We love and affirm the local church wherever we serve, and in faithfulness to Christ’s mandate, we work together to help disciples reach others who will reach others. We regularly invite clients to discipleship meetings with local pastors, HOPE staff, and other clients outside of the regular microenterprise meeting so they can more deeply explore what it means to follow Jesus.

This is our dream: disciples making disciples making disciples. By employing this model, we believe that, even if HOPE were to leave a community, the love of Christ will continue to spread powerfully in that region for generations to come.

scenic Rwanda

Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

Country: Rwanda
Population: 8,000,000
Days of widespread bloodshed: 100
Deaths: 1,117,000
Percentage of the country self-identifying as Christians: 93.6%

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. As I reflect on these statistics, I can’t help but question: How do people who know the Gospel and regularly attend church take up machetes against their brothers and sisters in Christ?

This question has haunted me over the years, and I sought an answer from HOPE’s country director for the Rwanda SCA program, Erisa Mutabazi. In addition to his duties with HOPE, Erisa has served as an ordained pastor in the Anglican Church for almost three decades. He shared:

An important movement called the East Africa Revival began in Rwanda in 1929. It spread to Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya during the 1930s and 1940s. The preachers’ message focused on the severity of sin and the need for individuals to confess their sins publicly. The revival contributed to the significant growth of the church in East Africa in the 1940s through the 1970s.

However, what is extremely perplexing is that genocide was possible in Rwanda with such a large “Christian” population. How could true followers of Jesus do this to one another? I have concluded that the idea of being a Christian at that time did not mean living as a disciple who was called to a completely new life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

This problem of conversions without discipleship is by no means unique to Rwanda. The country has come a long way in the past 20 years, and the local church has witnessed incredible stories of reconciliation through programs like HOPE’s savings and credit associations. But the fact that people often “convert” to Christianity without surrendering their lives to Christ compels HOPE to pursue nothing short of full discipleship in our spiritual integration efforts.

So what did Jesus say about what disciples should be and do?
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